Research, Technology

The Science of Friendship: How We Make and Lose Friends

Friendship is a unique kind of relationship, but give itexact definition is not easy. Two thousand years ago, Aristotle considered several types of friendship: a relationship based on shared interests between two business people and a relationship that he called a noble friendship. In general, in the ancient world, sincerity, like-mindedness, help in trouble and interest in the success of a common cause were considered the main signs of friendship. But since scientists took up friendship, her vision has changed: over the past 25 years, researchers have described the impact of friendships on health. It turned out that friends halve the risk of premature death, double the chances of recovering from depression, and also several times reduce the likelihood of catching a cold. And despite the fact that each of us adheres to our own definition of friendship, the results of scientific research have revealed something interesting.

Friendship is studied in sociology, social psychology, anthropology and philosophy.


  • 1 Why do we need friends?
  • 2 Who are we friends with and why?
  • 3 Number and quality of friends
  • 4 How and why friendships end

Why do we need friends?

Friendship plays an important role in our life.So, friends reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and depression, and our environment is responsible for the production of such neurotransmitters (chemicals in the brain) as oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine. The first is responsible for the feeling of attachment, the second gives us pleasure, and the third regulates mood.

For this reason, scientists are turning more and moreattention to brain chemistry - the release of neurotransmitters motivates us to behave in a friendly way. In addition, communication with friends relieves stress and is observed in many animals in the wild. Thus, in small groups of monkeys, relationships with family members are a pattern that has not disappeared from our evolutionary past.

Friendship contributes to longevity and well-being

Humans, like many other animals, livelarge groups and are surrounded not only by the family, but also by other members of the pack. Researchers believe that we make friends because it is profitable - friendship provides access to information and resources.

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Moreover, we are connected with friends by certainobligations that vary throughout life. We invest time, energy and things we want to share in friendships, and we enter into friendships voluntarily, forming an alliance based on mutual respect. But if we know the reason why we seek social connections, what keeps us together?

Who are we friends with and why?

It is believed that in the company of friends we feel good. But if spending time together becomes a duty, friendship begins to wane. Thus, the results of numerous scientificResearch has shown that there are two main categories of factors that influence our selection and search for potential friends: individual factors and environmental factors.

The influence of others on our lives is underestimated by many.

Individual factors include socialskills, self-development and similarity, and environmental factors include geographical conditions, activities and life events. The researchers also confirm preferences for friends who are similar to us, with whom we like to hang out.

For even more interesting articles about the role friends and acquaintances play in our lives, read on our channel in Yandex.Zen - articles that are not on the site are regularly published there

But that's not all - the choice of faithful comradesphysical attractiveness affects, but only at the initial stage of friendly relations. We tend to believe that beautiful people are like us, and that their values ​​and attitudes are the same as ours. In an attempt to understand why this happens, scientists have found that attractive faces seem familiar to us - we feel that we have already communicated with this person before, even if this is not so.

The reason for this desire for beauty is simple - in many ways we choose friends who are like us. The same principle, as scientists have found, is involved in the choice of romantic partners.

In addition to external attractiveness, we are looking for friends withgood social skills - this makes it much easier for both parties to develop friendships. Ultimately, friendship may be an important factor in well-being, while loneliness and social isolation—different but related conditions—may be associated with illness and premature death.

Man is a social being, and we subconsciously try to fit the environment.

Time plays another important role in friendship.More specifically, the amount of time we spend with our friends. Developing close friendships typically takes around 200 hours, and the quantity and quality of friendships go hand in hand. The number of friends also plays a significant role - some scientists believe that the more friends we have, the better.

Number and quality of friends

The results of the 2020 study showed thatpeople who have six or more friends enjoy better health throughout their lives. The same goes for overall life satisfaction. However, it is not so easy to determine the exact number of friends, because friendship and intimacy are subjective concepts. Besides, not all friendly relations can be useful for us.

Read also: Taking care of mental health: how not to go crazy in dark times

Alas, not all friends belong to us.OK. About half of our friends dislike us, according to a fascinating 2016 study published in PLOS One. Such “one-way” friendships are unsatisfying and generally harmful to our well-being. It also works both ways, as spending time with people you feel ambivalent about is a bad idea.

Friends, unlike relatives, you can choose yourself.

Factors such as insecurity, rivalry andcriticism makes us feel uncomfortable, so it's worth thinking twice before making another appointment. Needless to say, such relationships can harm well-being and health.

In the same way that good friends make our lives better, ambivalent friends doom us to mental suffering. Yes, yes, friends can really break our hearts.

How and why friendship ends

As we grow older, our interests and prioritieschange and not all friendships stand this test of strength. So, if a friend shows up every time you're in trouble but isn't happy about your accomplishments, you should be wary. After all, friends are known not only in trouble, but also in joy.

The person who incapable of genuinely being happy for you, can hardly be called a friend.

Previously, researchers from Aalto University in Finland and Oxford University found that our social circle shrinks after 20 years. It turned out that men and women turned on everythingmore and more friends and social contacts under the age of 25, and after that their social circle became smaller and smaller (and no, friends on Vkontakte and Facebook do not count).

Another's example is contagious

In fact, the older we get, the morewe have fewer friends. One of the reasons is a reassessment of values, different interests and a lack of free time - as we age, we become more selective, and many of those with whom we used to spend days on end simply moved away.

Ultimately, a smaller social circle allows you to find time for yourself, which, in turn, is good for your career, relationships, and overall well-being. And remember narrowing the circle of communication over the years is absolutely normal.

More on the topic: The brain copies the thinking of others through observations

Also, do not forget about individualdifferences, because if you are an introvert, then you get tired of an excess of communication. But the opposite is true for extroverts. To put it simply, extroverts enjoy social interactions that release a lot of dopamine in their brains.

Excess communication is not for everyone

At the same time, introverts are contentacetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation. Being extremely receptive to dopamine, introverts get tired of prolonged communication with people. Which I, being an introvert, confirm. We talked more about the differences between "extra" and "intro" here, I recommend reading it.