Friends become increasingly important to health and happiness as people age, according to new research in the journal Personal Relationships. They’re so crucial, in fact, that having supportive friendships in old age was found to be a stronger predictor of wellbeing than having strong family connections.
The new paper explores the findings of two studies about relationships. In the first, involving more than 270,000 people in nearly 100 countries, author William Chopik found that both family and friend relationships were associated with better health and happiness overall. But at advanced ages, the link remained only for people who reported strong friendships.
“I went into the research sort of agnostic to the role of friendship,” says Chopik, assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University. “But the really surprising thing was that, in a lot of ways, relationships with friends had a similar effect as those with family—and in others, they surpassed them.”
For the other study, Chopik analyzed a separate survey of nearly 7,500 older people in the U.S. Here, he found that it wasn’t just important to have friends, but that the quality of those friendships also mattered.
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When people said their friends were a source of strain, they reported having more chronic illnesses. (Interestingly, that was not the case for people who reported strain from their spouses and children.) When their friends were a source of support, people were happier.
None of this is particularly surprising, says Chopik. After all, unlike our family, we can choose our friends. “A few studies show that we often enjoy our time with friends more than with family,” he says. “We do leisurely things with friends, whereas family events are often serious or maybe a little monotonous.”
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The benefits of having close pals may also be stronger for older people because, by that point, those friendships have stood the test of time. “You have kept those people around because they have made you happy, or at least contributed to your wellbeing in some way,” says Chopik. “Across our lives, we let the more superficial friendships fade, and we’re left with the really influential ones.”
But Chopik says the power of friendship on physical and mental health is often ignored in research—especially in older people, where relationships with spouses and children are often considered more important.
And while it’s true that family members are often the people who provide caregiving support to the elderly, he says this can also create a sense of obligation. These relationships are certainly beneficial and often vital, Chopik adds. But they may not provide as much joy as those with long-time friends do.
Of course, some people can share powerful friendships with their siblings, spouses, children and other family members—and that’s a positive, too, says Chopik. “The general point is that the more support, the more positive interactions, the better,” he says. “The important thing is having people you can rely on, for the good times as well as the bad.”
so after moving things around and changing some aspect of my essay I finished and this is my final draft. Thank you so much everyone for your help and for being truthful!!!
When most people think of the word family, mother, father, children, and relatives immediately come to mind. If you look up the word in the Oxford English dictionary you would read:
While all this can be true of a family, it is not the only or the correct way that family can be defined. Family is more accurately described as a group of people who might not be related by blood or marriage but who sincerely care and love each other. They are there for you every step of the way and provide support you could never get anywhere else.
fam·i·ly (făm'ə-lē, făm'lē) n. - the group of persons consisting of the parents and their children, whether actually living together or not; in wider sense, the unity formed by those who are nearly connected by blood or affinity.
Since the beginning, families have been the building blocks of any society. Almost every aspect of our lives involves the term family. In our religion we are part of a “family” of believers. At Penn State we are part of one big “family” of students and faculty. One person unites our country as a “family” whom we all look towards for guidance. While these examples might be accepted by society today, it only describes family in broad terms. Family love is much deeper than all of that and is the love you share with your friends and relatives.
One very common misconception about family, as seen in the Oxford definition, is that its members almost always have to be related by blood, marriage, or adoption. In truth, family is anyone you love and care about and who also feels the same way about you. German poet Johann Schiller described family perfectly when he said; “It is not flesh and blood but the heart which makes us fathers and sons.” I believe that my family is not only my parents, my little brother and my other relatives, but also my best friends. My great-aunt is my blood relative but she knows as much about me as the next person. For example, my friend Caitlin can tell you anything you would ever want to know concerning me and we can practically read each other’s mind. I am not saying that my great-aunt is not considered part of my family but Caitlin is just as much as my aunt.
Family goes hand-in-hand with friendship. In order to have a family you need friendship. My family and I do not get along just because we are forced to live together. My family are my best friends and we get along because we genuinely love each other and want to be with each other. Every family is going to have its problems, but in the end no one can deny the love they have for each other.
In today’s society most people consider family to be just blood relations but in reality family is made of the bonds you share with those you care for the most. Family is a completely necessary component of anyone’s life. Your family helps you through the tough times. They provide the needed support to get you through life. Family cares about what happens to you, are always there for you, and above all, they love you no matter what.