National Friendship month inspired Nicki to read about the importance of friendship in society. What she discovered was quite surprising…
The causes of modern social problems, from divorce to homelessness and obesity, are often thought to be rooted in areas such as poverty, stress or unhappiness. But researchers suggest we are overlooking something crucial: friendship. Loneliness is a growing problem in the UK. More than nine million people of all ages say they are lonely either often or always, according to research by The Co-op and the British Red Cross.
Friendships are vital for wellbeing, but they take time to develop and are often at risk of being neglected. Tom Rath, Organisational director at Gallup, believes we can become more aware of the value of friendship during difficult times. In his book, Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford To Live Without, Rath makes the point that if you ask people why they became homeless, why their marriage failed or why they overeat, for example, they often say it’s because of the poor quality, or non-existence, of friendships. They feel outcast or unloved. Rath’s study of friendship resulted in some surprising statistics: If your best friend eats healthily, you are five times more likely to have a healthy diet yourself. Those who say they have no real friends at work have only a one in 12 chance of feeling engaged in their job. Conversely, if you have a best friend at work, you are seven times more likely to feel engaged in your job. The book was very well-received by the business world. It might look like time-wasting idle chatter, but when employees find friends at work, they feel connected in their jobs. Having a strong friendship at work is a good predictor for being a happy and productive employee so employers would do well to encourage this amongst their staff rather then discourage it.
The Oddfellows society advocates the benefits of friendship outside of work. Every September, they look to remind the nation of how important it is to have friends around you who not only make you laugh, provide companionship and also ‘have your back’. In short, the society helps bring people together to enjoy the brighter side of life; “True friendships are priceless. They provide us with memories that we cherish for a lifetime, they help us to grow and become better people, and help us make a better society, built on better values”. The society are certainly playing their part in tackling loneliness by providing easy ways for people of all ages to get together and get to know each other a little better within the community. They organise events such as tea parties, talks, friendship walks and quiz nights all over the country. More details can be found here.
It’s been said that a friend is a gift that we give ourselves. Yet, how much time do we really spend thinking about those people who matter more to us than all the other people we meet and interact with throughout our lives? It’s certainly food for thought and we really shouldn’t underestimate the importance of friendship in tackling the growing epidemic of loneliness within today’s society.