Best friends are forever, or so the saying goes, but there’s also something to be said about having only a few good friends, which according to research is better for you.
The benefits of having friends cannot be underestimated. Research undertaken by Oxford University shows that having friends is literally as good as morphine. How? Well, the study, entitled Tolerance predicts human social network size, found that people with friends were better able to withstand pain than those who who did not.
However, new research has revealed that although we have more “friends” these days because of social networks like Facebook and Twitter, an increasing number of people are finding themselves feeling lonely and isolated.
A study by the University of Edinburgh Business School reveals that large friendship circles are associated with increased stress levels.
When it comes to friendships and the benefits thereof, it might seem as though more is better. However, as with many things in life, too many is bad for you. Those who have a large group of friends are likely to suffer from something called role-strain, which is when a person feels stretched due to the pressure of needing to fulfil too many obligations.
Part of being a good friend is showing up when you’re needed, but if you have a large circle of close friends, the stress and anxiety of not being able to meet everyone’s needs can creep in.
Before you start feeling bad about pruning your friendship circle, consider the research that proves that over half the people you might consider to be friends probably don’t feel the same about you.
Researchers at MIT asked respondents to rate each other on whether they were friends or not. Eighty four undergraduates were asked to score how well they knew other students in their class. The scores were on a scale of zero to five, where zero meant “I do not know this person’, three meant ‘Friend’ and 5 meant ‘One of my best friends’.
Almost half of all the ‘friendships’ reported in the survey were not reciprocal.