Adult friendships are not optional.
Click start to play today’s Spell It, where we learn how friendships offer ‘vast’ benefits.
Having friends gets even more important as you grow older. According to a US-based 2010 study in the journal PLOS Medicine, where researchers conducted a meta-analysis of more than 308,000 people, the results were clear and shocking: people with no friends or poor-quality friendships are twice as likely to die prematurely. That’s a risk factor that’s even greater than the effects of smoking 20 cigarettes a day.
So, if health and happiness are on the top of your list as you grow older, then you must make room for genuine friendships. But what if you’re someone who just doesn’t have the time, or doesn’t buy into the idea of having a best friend? Here are some myths about friendships, dispelled by an August 2023 report in the US-based psychology news website Psychology Today:
1. Myth: You need a best friend
Let’s be practical: it’s great to call someone a ‘bestie’ but in adulthood, this is not always possible. And that’s completely fine. In his book, Friends: Understanding the Power of Our Most Important Relationships, British psychologist Robin Dunbar concludes that, in adulthood, an inner circle of about five close friends, followed by larger concentric circles of more casual types of friends, is necessary. Another study, published in January 2016 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, suggested that people who have six or more friends have improved health throughout their lives. Regardless of the exact number, studies show that the more meaningful friendships you have, the better.
2. Myth: If you don’t put in the time, the friendship isn’t worth it
Greek philosopher Aristotle once said: “Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit.” A 2018 study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that it takes about 50 hours of time together to move from mere acquaintance to casual friend, 90 hours to go to ‘friend’ status, and more than 200 hours before you can consider someone your close friend. Any relationship requires some foundation of time, energy and intentionality. But having said that, it doesn’t necessarily have to take years to see it come to fruition. We live hectic lives, with plenty of demands on our time, so it’s unreasonable to expect a friendship to take up most of it. Many deep, rich friendships exist without little day-to-day contact – at the end of the day, it’s quality that matters, not quantity of hours spent together.
3. Myth: Friends are forever
While some friendships stay strong through the test of time, many fizzle out. A study by American author Shasta Nelson, who wrote the book The Science of Bonding & Healthy Relationships, found that we replace half our close friends every seven years. Outgrowing people and places is a natural part of life. Sometimes, the journey involves stepping back from friendships that turn toxic or unhealthy. But just as we might say goodbye to a friend, we can open the door to a new one, who is more in sync with our values.