Friends, and Why to Have Them

April 21st, 2009

Increasingly, medical studies show us that having a lot of friends helps us live longer. An article by Tara Parker-Pope in today’s Times pointed out that some studies even show that friendships have a greater role on our health than spouses or family members do. Also:

“Last year, researchers studied 34 students at the University of Virginia, taking them to the base of a steep hill and fitting them with a weighted backpack. They were then asked to estimate the steepness of the hill. Some participants stood next to friends during the exercise, while others were alone. The students who stood with friends gave lower estimates of the steepness of the hill. And the longer the friends had known each other, the less steep the hill appeared.”

I’m reminded of a British psychological study done three years ago whose results suggested that one route to happiness is to have friends who are less well-off than you (not in order to lord your superiority over them, but to appreciate more fully what you have.)

So, putting the results of the two studies together, it’s now clear to me what I should be looking for in new friends I make: people with very heavy backpacks.