Family & Relationships Friends & Friendship

There"s a scientific reason you like your friends.



There is a scientific reason why you’ve chosen the friends you have. A 2014 study shows that our genetics are most similar with our close friends. This confirms what we’ve sensed all along: We feel most comfortable with our friends.

James Fowler, an author of the study and UC San Diego professor adds, “We have more DNA in common with the people we pick as friends than we do with strangers in the same population."

While it’s still important to have a variety of people in your life, the fact that we share certain DNA with those closest to us suggests that friendship is more than just a feeling. We’re hardwired to enjoy the company of others.  

Genetics, Friendship, and Our Olfactory System

What’s more, our DNA might push us toward certain activities based on the similarities we share with a friend’s olfactory system. Fowler says that the smell of coffee, for example, will gather certain people to a coffee shop, where they’re likely to meet or have a friendship date. Any social activity has unique smells that attract people who most find it enjoyable, which is why getting out and doing something you enjoy will help you meet likeminded people. Any one of these 50 suggestions for meeting others can connect you to potential new friends.

Our Friends Are Like Family, For Good Reason

The study offered genetic clues as to why some of us have become so close to friends they're like our family. We are "as genetically similar to our friends so much as we are our with our fourth cousins or people who share great-great-great grandparents," according to Fowler.

 

Our friends are much more than just people we hang out with. We spend the holidays with them, we support them, help them any way we can, and offer a safe place for them to be themselves. They do the same for us, and give us a sense of belonging. 

In the past, we've focused on family being important because we came from them, they share our blood, and as a result we must work that much harder to make things work with them. This study offers a glimpse into an opposing viewpoint, that family is what you make it, and genes are connected to people you choose to care about, more than we ever thought before.

Our Friends Have Different Immune Systems, Which Benefits Us

Not everything about our bodies is similar to a friend’s, however. Researchers found that “the people we choose to associate with tend to be immunologically different,” which is a factor also found in married couples. This fact gives our immune systems added protection and helps with physical health.

We have long believed that having friends not only makes us feel supported and cared for but helps us grow emotionally. This groundbreaking study suggests a completely different view of genetics, prompting discussion that in order to fully understand our personal genetic code, we must also look to the genes of our friends. You can read more about the study at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences site.

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