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Friends affect health, happiness more than family: Study

Researchers found both family and friend relationships were linked to better health and happiness overal

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

The power of friendship may be more important to our happiness and than relationships, according to a new which found that just a few good can make a world of difference to a person's well-being.

In a of nearly 280,000 people, researchers found that in older adults, friendships are actually a stronger predictor of and happiness than relationships with members.


"Keeping a few really good around can make a world of difference for our and well-being. So it is smart to invest in the friendships that make you happiest," said William Chopik, assistant professor at Michigan State University in the US.

Researchers analysed survey information about relationships and self-rated and happiness from 271,053 participants of all ages from nearly 100 countries.

They also looked at data from a separate survey about relationship support or strain and chronic illness from 7,481 older adults in the US.

Researchers found that both and friend relationships were linked to better and happiness overall, but only friendships became a stronger predictor of and happiness at advanced ages.

Friendships were very influential, researchers said. When were the source of strain, participants reported more chronic illnesses and when they were the source of support, participants were happier.

Perhaps due to the optional nature of relationships - that over time, we keep the we like and make us feel good and discard the rest, Chopik said.

also can provide a source of support for people who do not have spouses or for those who do not lean on in times of need.

can also help prevent loneliness in older adults who may experience bereavement and often rediscover their social lives after they retire.

relationships are often enjoyable too, Chopik said, but sometimes they involve serious, negative and monotonous interactions.

"There are now a few studies starting to show just how important friendships can be for older adults. These show that friendships predict day-to-day happiness more and ultimately how long we'll live, more so than spousal and relationships," he said.

Friendships often take a 'back seat' in relationships research, Chopik added, which is strange, especially considering that they might be more influential for our happiness and than other 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," he added.

The was published in the journal

First Published: Fri, June 09 2017. 15:22 IST
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