Is Having a Best Friend Good for Your Health?
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Every year, June 8th marks the annual Best Friends Day celebration. Many of us have close friends in our lives whom we cherish nearly as much, if not exactly as much, as we love our family and partners. Best Friends Day celebrates the very closest of those friends, the esteemed best friend. This person is the one who truly knows you in and out, and you know them just as well. You have infinite trust in each other, and you seek out each other’s wisdom often.
Of course, such a close friendship can come with its challenges. Being there for a best friend can occasionally be tough — maybe currently, for a best friend, work is stressful, family life is chaotic, or money is tight. So, on Best Friends Day, it might be worth asking: Is having a best friend good for your health?
Having any friends is good for you
Humans are social beings. Scientific studies have shown time and time again that having friends is not just good for people, but it’s actually crucial to our development. Studies behind friendship have suggested that, when a person forms a reasonable number of healthy, meaningful friendships, their blood pressure, body fat percentage, and bloodstream inflammation indicators are lower.
Having best friends is especially good for you
In 2017, a team of scientists published a study in the scientific journal Child Development that studied how a childhood best friend can impact a person’s livelihood. These scientists found that childhood best friends that carried over into adulthood correlated with both friends experiencing less anxiety and depression — and higher self-esteem — than much of the general population.
Studies focused on best friends who don’t necessarily meet during childhood have provided similar results. The prominent psychologist Tim Kasser has conducted research on how the quality of friendships diverges between those who seek popularity (a larger number of friends and a generally high reputation) and affinity (close friendships, irrespective of number). Affinity, a value more strongly associated with best friends, led to better mental health outcomes. Similarly, the social psychologist Bill Chopik has performed research that correlates strong, later-life friendships with anti-aging effects ranging from less chronic disease to fewer feelings of loneliness.
What if I don’t have a best friend?
Almost everyone has some number of friends. Both people with many and few friends sometimes don’t have one sole friend they can point to as their very best friend, whether because these people have a handful of friends that all qualify as best friends or because they prefer a level of privacy non-conducive to having a best friend.
Romantic relationships and family can often fill the void that not having a best friend can leave, but anyone who desires more (or better) friends can use all sorts of internet platforms and apps to meet new people, join clubs, take classes, or partake in other regular group activities that naturally lead to friendships. Best Friends Day might just provide the spark needed to go out and make that new friend or two — or more.