The Wall Street Journal February 10, 2020 Online Life Style “The Surprising Science Behind Friendship” “New research shows how crucial friendship is not only for happiness and emotional well-being but physical health too, a new book reveals”. “Friendship” by Lydia Denworth.
Studies of non-human primates suggest that reproductive success and long life are more closely correlated to having high social status or good social bonds than other factors. Similarly, human studies conclude that those of us with meaningful friendships have better cardiovascular health, immune function and sleep more soundly. A study by a Harvard-based team positively correlated men having close friends at age 50 as being healthier at age 80.
Unfortunately, with our busy lifes filled with work and family, building new friendships and revitalizing old friendships often gets low or no priority. These activities should be enjoyable but truth is getting close takes time. As many as 200 hours conversing, sharing, doing things together may elapse before we feel like close friends. We might guess, that our best chance for a new friend are those with which we at the outset share a common upbringing, a common background, and similar interests. New science supports this idea. Recently, neuroscientists captured brain images of study subjects while they were viewing an index video. Using these images the researchers were good at predicting which of the subjects actually were friends. Like-minded!
A simple characterization of a good friendship is one that is positive. These relationships feel mutually good, are stable, cooperative and reciprocating. As humans, most agree we generally feel and do better when we work and live with others. For close friendships it may be the quality of the friendship that is more imporant than quantity of friends. Even though we report having an average of four close friends, researchers believe that having at least one good friend is really the key.
As social media has evolved, many of us feel that these Apps enable isolating behavior keeping us from more important face-to-face interactions. Surprisingly, studies actually suggest that social media is helping many maintain friendships and is especially facilitating as we age and are less able to get around. Those active in social media reportedly have larger and a more diverse network of casual and close friends.
Bottomline. For health and long life, we must be making time for maintaining old friendships and creating new ones.