A 10-year Australian study found that older people with a large circle of friends were 22 percent less likely to die during the study period than those with fewer friends. A large 2007 study showed an increase of nearly 60 percent in the risk for obesity among people whose friends gained weight. And last year, Harvard researchers reported that strong social ties could promote brain health as we age.
“In general, the role of friendship in our lives isn’t terribly well appreciated,” said Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. “There is just scads of stuff on families and marriage, but very little on friendship. It baffles me. Friendship has a bigger impact on our psychological well-being than family relationships.”
What she said. It’s always puzzled me that there’s so much emphasis on romantic love and family and so little on friendship. Don’t get me wrong, I come from a very close knit family. I count my parents and my sister amongst my closest friends. And yet my non-family friends have been extraordinarily important to me over the years and helped get me through some really tough times. They’ve definitely been more important to me than any of my romantic partners (other than Scott who is my best friend).
I have friends I’ve been close to for more than twenty years. I’ve never been with any romantic partner that long. The worst breakup of my life was with a friend, not a romantic partner. I know I am not alone in this. When I’m miserable I IM or email my friends. “Tell me something happy!” I’ll demand and they do. When I have good news there are more than a dozen people that I simply HAVE TO TELL.
Last year, researchers studied 34 students at the University of Virginia, taking them to the base of a steep hill and fitting them with a weighted backpack. They were then asked to estimate the steepness of the hill. Some participants stood next to friends during the exercise, while others were alone.
The students who stood with friends gave lower estimates of the steepness of the hill. And the longer the friends had known each other, the less steep the hill appeared.
“People with stronger friendship networks feel like there is someone they can turn to,” said Karen A. Roberto, director of the center for gerontology at Virginia Tech. “Friendship is an undervalued resource. The consistent message of these studies is that friends make your life better.
Don’t you love that? Friends make mountains less steep. Mine have made my life immeasurably better. Bless you all!
One of the many reasons I love YA books so much is that many of them are about friendship. It’s no accident that the most important relationships in the Magic or Madness trilogy and How To Ditch Your Fairy are between the protags and their friends.
What are your favourite friendships in books?