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Scientists Asked This Question: Is Family More Important Than Friendship? Not According To This Study

Friendship comes out on top!

That old saying "blood is thicker than water" is always used to describe the closeness of the bonds between relatives. It's common for people to say that familial relationships are the most important aspect of their lives, and there are countless studies that have been done to underscore the value of them.

This may be a sour point for those with poor familial relationships, but a recent study has shown that your relationship with parents and siblings might not be as important to your well-being after all.

A Study Of Friendship

Solid friendships are often referred to as "the family you choose," and a Michigan State study has found that these friendships may actually have a much bigger impact on your overall health and wellness than your relationships with household members.

William Chopik, assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University, completed a pair of studies that involved almost 280,000 adults and found that good friendships were far more important when it came to determining a person's happiness and health.

In fact, his studies showed that as we age, the quality of our friendships is actually a much more accurate indicator of overall health and quality of life than the state of our familial relationships.

Why Friends Can Be Better Than Relatives

This isn't to say that people with healthy, close relationships with their relatives can't reap these benefits as well. It's possible to develop lasting friendships with parents and siblings, but for many people, this is difficult or impossible because these interactions are often seen as negative, monotonous or uncomfortable.

Why is this? There is no single answer to the question of why it's more difficult to cultivate these relationships with relatives, but Chopik noted that these types of interactions are more likely to be serious, tense or stressful. This can create a sort of unconscious bias against developing the same types of relationships with relatives as we do with the friends we have chosen.

In general, Chopik believes that these friendships are so influential because they are optional. Over time, we naturally tend to cherish the friendships that make us feel happy and supported, and we discard the ones that don't. It can be far more difficult to do this with familial relationships, which can also be a source of stress.

The studies also showed that these types of friendships were incredibly important for older adults, even if they had close relationships with blood relatives. A major reason for this is bereavement.

As we age, it's natural for us to lose parents, older siblings and even spouses. Having supportive friendships that have stood the test of time can ease feelings of loneliness and despair. Chopik says that friends can help older adults rediscover their social lives and spark a renewed interest in life after losing a loved one or retiring.

Friends Are More Influential to Our Health

Chopik was surprised to find that the number one predictor of day-to-day happiness and overall life expectancy was not spousal or familial relationships but good friendships.

He says that, "Friendships help us stave off loneliness but are often harder to maintain across the lifespan. If a friendship has survived the test of time, you know it must be a good one – a person you turn to for help and advice often and a person you wanted in your life."

Whether your relationship with your relatives is wonderful or less-than-ideal, it turns out that this may not affect your overall health and happiness as much as society wants you to believe. While familial bonds can be an important source of love and support for some, it seems that the friendships you choose are really what will keep you happy in the long run.

What do you think? Is blood really thicker than water, or do you agree with the findings of these studies?

Tell us your opinions, and see if your friends agree about the importance of these relationships.

Are your friends more of a family than your actual family?