There are a few easy, science-backed ways to improve your chances of leading a long and healthy life, like getting refills on your coffee and (surprisingly) keeping cheese on the menu. Then there are slightly harder, more heart-pumping ways to get there—like running. Now, according to a a new study, there’s a really fun route to a long, happy life: friendship. (So running with friends followed by coffee and cheese basically equates to living forever, right?)
The study, published in Personal Relationships, surveyed more than 280,000 people across nearly 100 countries about their nearest and dearest, along with their happiness and health, and found that people who placed more importance on friendship and family tended to say they were happier, more satisfied, and healthier than those who didn’t. And when it comes to embracing the buddy system, it’s better to have a few great friends than a ton of mediocre ones—and some friendships may be stronger than familial bonds.
It’s better to have a few great friends than a ton of mediocre ones—and some friendships may be stronger than familial bonds.
“As we age, we prune away at some of the friendships that are more superficial and acquaintance-like,” William Chopik, a psychologist at Michigan State University and lead researcher for the study, told Health24. “That means that as older adults, we’re left with the ones that are deeper and make us happy.” He found that valuing family and friends was associated with greater health and higher happiness overall—but as you age, valuing your BFFs is a stronger predictor of living your best life.
And conversely, participants who reported having “strained friendships” were more likely to suffer from chronic health issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, lung disease, and mental health concerns. (Talk about an emotional and physical bummer.)