Do friends make you happier than family? – By Luisa Dillner

Do friends make you happier than family?

Friendships are less judgmental and and more likely to be positive. Having good friends can even make you healthier

A study found that those who valued friendships highly were healthier and happier.
A study found that those who valued friendships highly were healthier and happier. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Do you believe that blood is thicker than water? That your family relationships are more important than friends? Well, think again. Research from Michigan State University suggests that friends may make you happier and healthier than your relatives.     

Solution

As William Chopik, associate professor of psychology and author of the study says: “Friends are a conscious choice. Family relationships can be serious, negative and monotonous.” The research included two studies – one a broad survey of nearly 300,000 people, aged between 15 and 99, from more than 90 countries. This study found that those who valued friendships highly were healthier and happier (according to their own reports), especially as they got older. The second study used data from a US survey of 7,481 people over 50. Subjects were questioned about the quality of their friendships – how much friends understood them and how much they let them down. They were also asked how strongly they agreed with the statement: “My life is close to ideal.” Over the next six years they were followed up and asked whether they had illnesses such as diabetes, cancer or heart disease.

Chopik says he isn’t suggesting we ignore our families, but that friends make us feel better. “With friends you are more likely to do activities – they provide an outlet. You can say things to friends and they are less judgmental. There is a distance there that provides a level of honesty.”

Research consistently shows the benefits of friendships – a review of 148 studies with more than 308,000 people found that those with strong social relationships increased their odds of survival over the seven years of the study by 50%. The researchers pointed out that this increase is comparable to the health benefits of giving up smoking. Other research shows that people generally say they have a better time with friends than with relatives in later life. However, friendships often fall away after people cohabit, marry or have children. Chopik says the fall can be from five or six close friends to two or three. He says that cultivating good-quality friendships across our lives is beneficial – raising self-esteem and buffering against stress. We tend to naturally drop friendships that aren’t good for us or are superficial. Listening and being trustworthy are important in good friendships – the same qualities that would enhance family relationships.

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Comments

  • NADIRA UK  On June 17, 2017 at 10:41 am

    My family only write to me if they want money . They never did a day work but keep begging for money
    I prefer my friends company

  • Gigi  On June 17, 2017 at 11:09 am

    I’ve long come to that realization. And I’ve often made this known to relatives. After all, if I had a “friend” who was only interested in the friendship for personal financial gain, what good is the friendship? Is it even friendship? And while I can walk away from that friendship,on the other hand, family members are like parasites that latch on forever unless you forcefully make the effort to remove yourself from their clutches. I’ve had to do that and I have overcome those losses and now have no regrets because to this day, those folks still haven’t changed. The ones who are still alive. The only difference is that my mom isn’t around to force them in my face demanding that I help because they’re family. Funny, if they were strangers, she would have warned me to stay the hell away from them because they were up to no good

    Because of my experiences, I have consciously raised my kids to be consciously independent and not veer toward being parasitic. To realize that family is not obligated to do for them or be there for them to use and abuse. For them not to take family for granted or be a parasite on them, but to respect and value each other. That their responsibility then is on each one of them to contribute and be there for each other equally in order to maintain good, loving, and strong family bonds. And that for this to happen they will need to discuss among themselves their expectations of each other and what they are willing to do for each other.

    In order to help them understand how family and friendship ought to work, I had them read Aristotle’s ‘Nicomachean Ethics’ Book 8 — on the value of friendship. We have had many conversations on this so that they may grasp the expectations of friendships based on their formations – what do I want from this friendship? What am I willing to put up with in return? Asking these and other questions will help in understanding how friendship works and can also help to construct family relationships.

    • NADIRA UK  On June 17, 2017 at 3:45 pm

      I work really hard but my family think I’m rich. I’m not rich if I was in wouldn’t have to go to work. I’m fed up of begging letters . It’s not like I didn’t give them. If I don’t work who is going to pay my bills.

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