Brainstorm

Posts by Psychology Today Editors

Friends Mostly Near, Not Far

Keeping friends close at hand.

When my kids were small and I was sick with the flu, my secret weapon to a fast recovery wasn't just drinking lots of fluids. I wanted the peace and quiet of my bed; I had a date with my pillow and no one was interrupting me. But when you're a mom, the requests for clean shorts and pasta cannot go entirely unattended. That's why a single working mother needs her most crucial artillery: a tight network of friends--especially when they're close at hand.

So when I came across a study about friendship and proximity, I had to stop. In the study, University of Leipzig researchers found that among students who sat in randomly assigned seats, those sitting in neighboring seats had higher ratings of friendship intensity one year later. And the same was true even if the students sat in the same row.

This makes a lot of sense. My friends live nearby, one even in the apartment next to mine. The commute is really short. So on Sunday mornings, I sometimes send her an unobtrusive text message that says: "Coffee?" Or if we're really feeling charged up, we'll all get together on a Friday night in wingwomen mode. But mostly we're there to relay the highlights of the week, touching on family, work, and love. It's a definite therapy session.

I hope I'm still surrounded by friends when I'm well into old age. I read that having this type of support can improve cognition and even help prevent dementia. One study, from The American Journal of Public Health, shows that elderly women with stronger social networks were less likely to develop dementia. But really, though, if I were to lose my mind I would definitely need my friends more than ever.

Lybi Ma is the deputy editor of Psychology Today; she is also the author of the novels Repo Girl and Double Happy.

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