We’ve known for years now that money can’t necessarily buy happiness, but there’s one thing that can, and it’s 100 per cent free – friendship. According to two new studies, you can thank your mates for your good health and general life satisfaction.
William Chopik, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, set out to investigate the links between our relationships and support networks with our health and general wellbeing, and what he found will surprise you.
For the first study, more than 270,000 participants from almost 100 countries answered surveys about their relationships and rated their health and happiness. The results revealed that while both family and friend relationships were associated with higher levels of happiness and better health, in older participants, friendships were a stronger predictor of health and happiness.
For the second study, 7,481 older adults from the US answered a survey about relationship support/strain and chronic illness. This study also showed that friendships had a strong influence on health and happiness. When their friendships were strained, participants reported more chronic illnesses. When their friends were offering them support, they were happier.
“Friendships become even more important as we age,” Chopik said. “Keeping a few really good friends around can make a world of difference for our health and well-being. So it’s smart to invest in the friendships that make you happiest.”
Chopik says it’s interesting to see the significant impact friendships have on our health and wellbeing, given there has been so little research on the subject (in comparison to other types of relationships) in the past.
“There are now a few studies starting to show just how important friendships can be for older adults. Summaries of these studies show that friendships predict day-to-day happiness more and ultimately how long we’ll live, more so than spousal and family relationships.
“Friendships help us stave off loneliness but are often harder to maintain across the lifespan,” he said. “If a friendship has survived the test of time, you know it must be a good one – a person you turn to for help and advice often and a person you wanted in your life.”