Good Friends are Good for Us
Erin Labbé

Since 2008, Southridge has conducted regular student surveys. One question that has been asked on every survey invites students to provide feedback on the statement: “I have at least one close friend at Southridge”. Since 2008, 85%-90% of Southridge students have responded “agree” or “strongly agree” with this statement. This is an important measure, and one that the school pays close attention to when evaluating and considering the general health and wellness of Southridge students. Why? Because friendships are crucial ingredients for happiness and emotional well-being – and for physical health too. Science has even proven it!

In her book, Friendship, published in 2020 by W.W. Norton & Co., science journalist and author, Lydia Denworth, takes readers in search of friendship’s biological, psychological, and evolutionary foundations. She finds friendship to be as old as early life on the African savannas – when tribes of people grew large enough for individuals to seek fulfillment of their social needs outside their immediate families. Denworth sees this urge to connect reflected in primates, too, taking readers to a monkey sanctuary in Puerto Rico and a baboon colony in Kenya to examine social bonds that offer insights into human relationships. She meets scientists at the frontiers of brain and genetics research and discovers that friendship is reflected in our brain waves, our genomes, and our cardiovascular and immune systems. Denworth uses field biology and neuroscience to show how our bodies and minds are designed for friendship across life stages, the processes by which healthy social bonds are developed and maintained, and how friendship is changing in the age of social media.

Ultimately, through her research and writing, Denworth’s hope is that people will understand that good friends are good for us.

“The message is not that I want people to think of friendship as another chore. I am hoping that people feel this is giving them permission to make friends a priority. To spend time with their friends and to know that when they do, they're doing something good for their own health and for their friends' health.”

Contributed by Erin Labbé, Director, Communications and Marketing
Originally published in Spirit Magazine - Spring 2023