What Are The Benefits of Prioritising Friendships? A Social Psychology Podcast Episode



There are lots of benefits to friendships and being a part of social groups as I talk about in my books. But we’ve never talked about the benefits of prioritising friendships so that’s the focus of today’s great episode. Some of the results are surprising!


This episode has been sponsored by Social Psychology: A Guide to Social and Cultural Psychology Third Edition. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback, large print and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it.


What Are The Benefits of Prioritizing Friendships?

Lu Peiqi et al (2021) conducted a great study in 99 countries using 323,000 participants and as this is The Psychology World Podcast, I love global research. So when I saw this research used a lot of different countries that would allow us to imply some possible universal rules of behaviour. I was instantly interested and I knew there would definitely be a podcast episode on it.


The researchers got the participants to use a number of rating scales to see how important friends were to them, how happy they were, how healthy they were and more information so the researchers would get a full picture of the participant and their social groups.


At first, if you’ve ever done social psychology before then you can probably guess of a few possible advantages. But I still think some of these results are really worth thinking about.

Because interestingly, the results showed that participants were rating their friends as more important tended to be healthier, more satisfied with their lives and happier. Which is very important because it shows the importance of social groups to humans and their mental health.


Furthermore, the research found there were certain groups of people that were more likely to rate their friends as more important to them. These people were women, people in countries with less inequality, people with higher levels of education as well as people in countries that allowed people to enjoy life more. These are countries that don’t suppress people’s needs for gratification through very strict social norms.


However, when we dig into the results even more we see there’s another layer to the data. Due to whilst it’s true people who rated their friends as more important got strong benefits from it, this correlation was stronger for some than others.


This raises the question of who gets the most benefit from their friends?


On the whole, people from individualistic cultures (cultures that value freedom more), older people, women and people with low levels of education tend to see more benefits from friendships than others.


Overall, the study shows very convincing evidence for the importance of friendships and how they affect both mental and physical health. As well as these conclusions have been supported by a variety of other studies, as discussed in Social Psychology.


Things To Bear In Mind:

As much as I love this study because it’s truly massive and it has results from all over the world. That’s amazing and I would love to have the resources to do my own global research.

Anyway there are some problems with the research.


Mainly because it’s all correlational and the research was done by averages. So of course, there will be some men who strongly value their friends, some women won’t. There’ll be people who are extremely healthy and happy despite not having many friends.


In addition, the results aren’t very strong or the correlations are rather weak despite the results being statistically significant. Meaning the benefits of ratings their friends as important were only slight.


Nonetheless, I personally think whilst these were the results, there are still lots of benefits of having friends and close relationships. From your mental health to social support to keeping mental health conditions away, social groups are critical for humans.


But the research was still great!


I really hope you enjoyed today’s social psychology episode.


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Social Psychology: A Guide to Social and Cultural Psychology Third Edition. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback, large print and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it.


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Social Psychology Reference:

Lu Peiqi, L, Jeewon, Katelin, L & William, C. (2021) Friendship Importance Around the World: Links to Cultural Factors, Health, and Well-Being, Frontiers in Psychology, 11. DOI=10.3389/fpsyg.2020.570839

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