It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.
“The midlife wellbeing of both men and women seems to depend on having a wide circle of friends whom they see regularly, finds research published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.” (“Wide Circle of Friends Key to Mid-Life Well-Being For Both Sexes” ; Science Daily 8/22/2012)
I’m never surprised anymore by just how influential friends are to a person’s health. But I am still fascinated by how much more important friendship is than other relationships.
In this study, the authors found that having a network of relatives is also important for mid-life well-being…but only for men. For the ladies, it’s friends, friends, friends. “For women, lack of friends had an even greater impact on wellbeing. [Psychological wellbeing] was 4 points lower if they had no friends. But a lack of relatives had no emotional impact.”
I wonder what that’s about? I mean, I adore my friends–obvi–but I like having close relatives, too. I really do get the impression that having a close family makes me happy, though now I wonder if that happiness boost is statistically significant.
I’m also interested in the fact that this study gives actual numbers. So often these bits of research just refer to more friends or fewer friends, bigger social networks or smaller ones. What does that mean? What constitutes a lot of friends? What constitutes low-levels of social integration?. Come on folks. Specifics. Please.
Here’s how these researchers define it: “Compared with those with 10 or more regular contacts, smaller networks of friends at the age of 45 were associated with significantly lower levels of psychological wellbeing for both sexes.”
This is fairly serious. Ten regular contacts is a lot. Isn’t it? I don’t have a good gauge of what life at 45 is like, but it seems to me that regular contact with 10 people—especially at a time where you are likely to be juggling a family and a job on top of those social contacts—is a lot to shoot for.
But, still, it’s doable. And I like inspiring tangible goals. So for those of you wondering how many friends you need to be happy, I have your answer: TEN.
Now go schedule a playdate.
Do you have ten or more regular social contacts? Does that seem like a reasonable number, or too ambitious?