Are Friends Better For Your Health Than Family?March 13, 2020
There is no denying that people need people—after all, we are social animals that depend on the company of others, both similar and different from us. Our familial relationships can be some of the most tight-knit connections we experience because of long-lasting bonds since birth. However, as we age, our relationships with people outside of our family circle become essential to how we develop our identities and interests. Having strong bonds with both friends and family have a wide variety of benefits for our minds and souls throughout our lifetime, but, is one relationship healthier for us than the other?
Is Blood Thicker than Water?
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Blood is thicker than water.” These famous words of wisdom point out that friends and other social ties may come and go, but family is forever. After all, our mother, father, and siblings surround us for our first-ever experiences. These initial experiences are significant in shaping the way that we view and move around in the world.
However, having our father, mother, and siblings present in a healthy way is not the norm for everyone. Familial connections also can be the most difficult, traumatic, or absent relationships in our lives. Research suggests that bonds built on a sense of obligation can make us feel far more criticized and stressed. Unlike our relationships with family, we have the free will to both seek and end our friendships based on our wants and needs.
What Science Says about Friendship and Our Health
Supportive friendships are statistically proven to have lasting effects on our health. Research shows that those with vibrant and quality friendships have less of a chance of developing chronic illnesses than those who do not focus on building strong friendships. There is not any significant trend between healthy family or romantic connections and our health, so, what makes friendships so unique?
It all comes down to family baggage—yes, they have baggage. With our family, we inevitably and inescapably inherent stresses and anxieties that come along with them. Our friendship bonds are much more forgiving and allow us the space to separate from our friend’s troubles when they become too much. The choice and level of engagement are up to us, and this offers a certain sense of freedom and happiness.
Say Goodbye to Family?
The point is not to ignore your family, distance yourself from family, or not consider your family important. Research only suggests that friendships—considered by some to be secondary to family relationships—are, in reality, vital to your emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. When you age, our need for familial guidance and constant support becomes less and less necessary for our survival. Instead, the support we need becomes more about the freedom our friendships embody.
Next time you get together with your closest friends, be sure to express just how thankful you are to have them in your life! After all, they are essential to your overall well-being!