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693: Friendship Age

The friends that you have around you have a big impact on your life. Research tells us that our friends can do everything from impact our health choices to the level of happiness we express.. Or even how long we may live. So who do you tend to have in your friends group?

As Scientific American published in 2011, quote:

A new study published September 21 in Group Processes & Intergroup Relations suggests that when people are able to choose friends from a larger, more diverse group, they pick pals who are most similar to themselves. Those in smaller groups, however, wind up with dissimilar—but closer—friendships. “The ironic finding is that in more diverse environments, we find less diverse friendships,” says social psychologist Angela Bahns of Wellesley College in Massachusetts, lead author of the study. She compared students at large and small college campuses to see how their social environments shaped their friendship choices. Although you might expect people who go to a large, varied campus to spend time with a more diverse group of people, in fact it just allows them to be more exclusive, Bahns says.

In other words, we tend to develop close relationships with those around us. When we have an option about it, that option tends to be drive by a huge variety of factors. And genetics may even prove to be one of those factors. As Smithsonian Magazine reported in 2014, quote:

We tend to choose friends who are genetically similar to ourselves. Unexpectedly, the similarity can’t just be explained away by friends who share the same ancestral heritage. Researchers from the University of California, San Diego, arrived at this finding after comparing genome-wide data from nearly 2,000 individuals with that of their unrelated, platonic friends and of strangers. Compared to strangers, the people the subjects chose to be friends with had significantly more in common genetically. They shared about one percent of their genome – about as related as fourth cousins. Most often, friends shared genes related to sense of smell, the authors found. There was one exception to this rule, however. Friends significantly differed in their arsenal of immunity genes, the team found. Speculating, the researchers think that this might increase the chances that our friends will be more resistant to the germs that cripple us, and could thus take care of us and help stop the spread of infection.

While I had trouble finding any research that looked even partially reliable when it comes to the prevalence of or type of age differences in friendships, I was able to find a large number of articles that highlighted or profiled friendships between people with a significant age gap. That says to me that this type of friendship is at least perceived as unusual, no matter how common it may or may not be — and almost universally, individuals with friends of a variety of ages talk about how important those friendships are to them.

So how about you?