The Power of Friendship

It Sustains, Nourishes and Supports Us

For a reason, a season or a lifetime, friends help us cope with challenges, motivate our best work and celebrate life. Friendships take many forms, crossing generations and self-imposed boundaries, and even spring up between unlikely confidants.

 

Childhood friends Matt Damon and Ben Affleck collaborated on the Oscar-winning screenplay for Good Will Hunting. Fierce tennis competitors Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki like to get together for a gal-pal getaway after a major match. Country music artists Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood married following an 18-year friendship; “We had a lot more in common than I ever dreamed we did,” says Brooks.

Rafts of research confirm how friendship enriches us. Carlin Flora, of New York City, spent years as a Psychology Today writer and editor before penning Friendfluence: The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are. She notes that among the varied and perhaps unforeseen benefits, friendships can help us “shed pounds, sleep better, stop smoking and even survive a major illness.”

An ongoing, two-decade-plus study of nearly 1,500 seniors by the Flinders University Centre for Ageing Studies, in Australia, found those with a large network of friends outliving others with the fewest friends by 22 percent. The University of Chicago National Opinion Research Center also reports people with five or more close friends as 50 percent more likely to describe themselves as “very happy” than those maintaining fewer confidants.

“Friends past and present play powerful and often unappreciated roles in determining our sense of self and the direction of our lives,” says Flora. “Even in a supposedly meritocratic society, friends give jobs and assignments to each other, so having friends that share your career interests and aspirations can get you much farther than you could ever get on your own.”

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