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Are Friends Better Than Family?

Friendship might become more important than family in the long run, suggests a new study published in the journal Personal Relationships.

Friends vs Family

We do not choose our family, but we can choose our friends. The latter become more and more important with time, contributing positively to one’s health and happiness to a greater extent, says the new study conducted by researchers from Michigan State University. Furthermore, friendships, as opposed to family relationships, are a stronger indicator of health and happiness for older adults. Having a few close friends can be extremely beneficial to our well-being. It would, therefore, be wise to “invest in friendships that make you happiest”, advises study author, William Chopik.

Surveys on Relationships

The findings come from a pair of studies: the first focused on 271,053 participants who reported information about their relationships, health, and happiness; the individuals came from around 100 countries, spanning over different age groups. The second research analysed data from another survey that dealt with relationship support and strain, and chronic disease; the participants amounted to 7,481 older adults from the US.

The Findings: Friendship, A Strong Predictor of Health

While both family and friends contribute to better health and happiness, the latter were a stronger predictor thereof as one ages. The findings of the second research further highlight the influence of friends: when friends were part of the participants’ support system, they were happier, and the opposite was also true as more chronic illnesses were reported when friends were a source of strain.

On the other hand, family members were associated with both positive connotations, and negative and monotonous interactions.

A Choice We Make

Chopik suggests that we might tend to keep friends we like, and who are good to us, because we can choose our friends. Furthermore, people who don’t have spouses or who do not rely on family during hard times might be more inclined to turning to friends for support. As for older adults who suffer from abandonment, they might find solace in friendships, thus making them rediscover that part of their social lives.

Moreover, the new findings appear to support previous ones.

“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,” says Chopik.

The Test of Time

Friends keep loneliness away even if it is hard to maintain the relationships for years on end. This means that if a friendship has stood the test of time, it is most likely a good one: a safe haven where you can find advice and support when you so need it. And, most of all, it means that you want this person in your life.


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