As we get older and busier, it gets harder and harder to see our friends as much as we’d like to. Regular drinks after work can quickly turn into a dinner a fortnight or even months without getting a date in the diary, as schedules clash – especially if distance is a factor.
However, new research suggest that we should in fact be going the extra mile to make time for our best friends on a regular basis, as this is not only the best way to maintain and grown the friendships but can also improve our overall health.
According to research conducted by the University of Oxford, hanging out with your best pal twice a week is good for both your mental and physical health. In fact, it also suggests that people with larger friendship groups are less likely to suffer from illnesses and they recover quicker from surgery – and there is scientific evidence to back it up.
Explaining the theory to the Huffington Post, professor of evolutionary psychology Dr. Robin Dunbar said: ‘The figure of twice a week comes from our findings that this is the amount of time that you typically spend with your closest friends/family. For both sexes (no surprise), having a large, well-integrated social network has a significant impact on both physical and emotional health.’
While there are a number of reasons for this, one significant one when it comes to women is the theory of ‘tend and befriend.’ Found by researchers at UCLA, this is a type of coping mechanism that suggests that women deal with stress better when they have friends there to support them. This stems from a hormone called oxytocin also known as the ‘love hormone’, and is heightened in our brains when we are around people we love.
However, this isn’t a women-only thing; men get it too. ‘Bonds can be formed through a range of activities from team sports to male banter – or simply having a pint with your pals on a Friday night,’ adds Dunbar. ‘However, the key to maintaining strong friendships is to meet up twice a week and do stuff with the four people closest to you.’
And on that note, we’re off to make plans with our nearest and dearest.