Having Enough Friends

“Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit.” – Aristotle

Harvard’s Happiness Research Points to Quality Relationships

An 80-year longitudinal study by Harvard revealed just how important caring relationships are for health and happiness. “Good relationships don’t just protect our bodies; they protect our brains,” Harvard researcher Robert Waldinger said in his TED talk.

A University of Kansas report published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships by associate professor of communication studies Jeffrey Hall states that it takes roughly 50 hours of time together to move from mere acquaintance to casual friend, 90 hours to go from that stage to simple “friend” status, and more than 200 hours before you can consider someone a close friend.

Close friends provide us with an emotional immunization from some of the suffering in life that we might experience otherwise. A good friend can give us comfort, guidance, perspective, and resources when we need it the most. Investing some of our 112 waking hours a week in developing and sustaining close friendships is time well spent. When we have enough friends, our sense of belonging is satisfied and we are happier.

A national survey of adults 45 and older conducted by AARP Research revealed that one in three people are lonely. The percent jumps to one in two if their income is less than $25,000 a year. The report also cited health studies that put loneliness in the same risk category as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. For many, this loneliness comes with social isolation—lonely people simply do not have enough structured activity in which to engage with others. We, humans, have a tendency to keep this loneliness in our lives with more than 40% reporting that their loneliness has lasted more than six years.

How much friendship is enough for each of us is a very individual determination, but on average, people who reported in the AARP study that they are not lonely have 8.2 people who have been supportive in the previous year, compared to 4.3 people for the lonely group. When asked how many people they discuss matters of personal importance, the not-lonely group said 4.0, and the lonely group said 2.1.

Like money, the number of good relationships we need to be happy is probably less than we might think. While the brain might be able to handle up to 150 relationships at a time, those whom we really call friends are few indeed. A study by Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist at Oxford, shows that the average person does not have time for more than five close friends at a time. If you are in a committed relationship, the number may be smaller. Her research shows that you can be happy with just one close friend.

From the book: Enough Money, Meaning & Friends ~ By Scott C. Miller

To learn more about Scott Miller, please see his website here.