Science has confirmed what we already know – that great friendships can benefit our mind, body and soul.
“Friendship is the single most important factor influencing our health, well-being, and happiness,” explains Dr Robin Dunbar, Professor of Evolutionary Psychology at Oxford University.
Dr Dunbar, who led the research, adds that creating and maintaining friendships is, however, extremely costly, in terms of both the time that has to be invested and the cognitive mechanisms that underpin them.
But the benefits are worth the time and effort. While we already know that having healthy, supportive friends improves our outlook, the physical benefits have been harder to prove. Until now.
The study showed that people with larger friend groups are less likely to suffer from illnesses and they recover quicker from surgery.
So how much bestie banter do you need to reap these health benefits? Well, you should probably make time twice a week for the best outcome.
"The figure of twice a week comes from our findings that this is the amount of time that you typically spend with your closest friends/family," Professor Dunbar told the Huffington Post. "For both sexes, having a large, well-integrated social network has a significant impact on both physical and emotional health."
That’s good news for those blessed with multiple besties, because it means you can see a group of friends together to maximise the health benefits, and minimise the time investment you'd make seeing all those mates individually.
Stuck for group catch-up ideas?
How about a doubles tennis match? A walking group? Saturday morning coffee date or Sunday arvo’ tea and cake - at your place!?
"Bonds can be formed through a range of activities from team sports to male banter — or simply having a pint with your pals on a Friday night," Dunbar added. "However, the key to maintaining strong friendships is to meet up twice a week and do stuff with the four people closest to you."
Schedule time, ladies!