The Science of Friendship

UPDATED: July 21, 2016
PUBLISHED: July 21, 2016

Our need for social support isn’t just in our heads. Evolutionary psychology explains that the innate need to form social bonds is wired into our biology. When we make a positive social connection, the pleasure-inducing hormone oxytocin is released into our bloodstream, immediately reducing anxiety and improving concentration and focus. Each social connection also bolsters our cardiovascular and immune systems, so the more connections we make over time, the better we function.

Related: Why You Need Positive People in Your Life

When we enjoy strong social support, we can accomplish impressive feats of resilience and even extend our lives. Researchers have found social support has as much effect on life expectancy as smoking, high blood pressure, obesity and physical activity. As one set of doctors put it, “When launching a life raft, the prudent survivalist will not toss food overboard while retaining the deck furniture. If somebody must jettison a part of life, time with a mate should be last on the list: He needs that connection to live.” When set adrift, those of us who hold onto our raft mates, not just our rafts, are the ones who will stay afloat.

PRO TIP for the work-from-home crowd: Schedule coffee breaks with friends throughout the week to bolster your social connections.

Related: 8 Traits of Healthy Relationships


This article originally appeared in the August 2016 issue of SUCCESS magazine.

Shawn Achor is a Harvard-trained researcher and best-selling author of The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness. Get a daily dose of happy at Shawn's Facebook page.