Do I have a good social life? We often ask ourselves this question, usually when we wonder if ours is as good as someone else’s. On one level, this question is a matter of opinion. A highly social person might crave lots of connections and friends, where a less social person might be content with a small, intimate circle.
Our age and stage of life also influences how we define a good social life. Kids tend not to even ask this question, just making friends on the playground and in the neighborhood. As teenagers, this question becomes central. Our friends and their opinion of us matters more than anything else. This friend-centric focus tends to last into our early to mid 20s.
Then life intervenes. We get a job, get married, have kids – suddenly our friendships are competing with everything else on our to-do lists.
Importance of a Good Social Life
So what, we are tempted to say. Our friends will be there when we need them. That important deadline at work will come and go! Or many of us discover that outside of school making friends is wicked hard! Is it worth that much effort? Especially after I’m exhausted from work?
Research is saying, yes. YES!!! Maintaining a good social life – it turns out – has a huge, quantifiable impact on our mental and physical health! Research has found that a less than good social life has the same negative impact as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, more harmful than not exercising, and twice as harmful as obesity!!! More friend connections increases our odds of physical survival by 50%! In fact, a good social life is more important than strong family ties.
Definition of a Good Social Life
Happily, research is also helping us define what counts as good enough. There are 4 main types of friends:
- the Acquaintance: someone you run into and chat with as you go about your daily life (10-100)
- the Casual Friend: a lunch pal, often someone we share a hobby with, like a running partner or a fellow wine snob (10-50)
- the Close Friend: an intimate, trustworthy friend where we can speak our thoughts out loud (5-12)
- the Lifer: an intimate friend who is stronger and more committed than family (3-5)
We also have some idea of roughly how many of each type of friend we need in our lives:
- the Acquaintance: recommendation is 10 to 100 people that help us feel connected
- the Casual Friend: recommended 10 to 50 individuals so we are always to find someone for a lunch date
- the Close Friend: these more intimate friends are fewer in number, recommendation is 5 to 12
- the Lifer: closest yet is the smallest number of recommended friends, only 3 to 5
The total number of recommended connections is between 28 and 167 individuals. If you want to know if your social life is good enough, try to figure out how many friends you already have in each category. If you are lower than recommended in any category, I would strongly suggest finding ways to increase the friends in your life!