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Invest in your friendships for better health and happiness.

Toni-Ann DiSantis

Relationship alert! Invest in your friendships for better health and happiness.

Keep your family close, and your friends closer? Friendships may be even more important than family relationships as you get older, according to new research. Two studies of nearly 280,000 people revealed that over a lifetime, friendships are a better predictor of health and happiness than family relationships. Parents, siblings, children, and extended family members can be a fantastic source of support, of course, but these relationships can also involve stressful dynamics. Unlike with families, there’s often a winnowing process that happens with friendships over time — the stronger ones rise to the top, and you let go of the rest. Like Rome, friendships aren’t built in a day, so the time to invest in your friendships is now, whether you’re 30 or 70. Make a standing date with your besties, like a weekly yoga class and walk or a monthly dinner at your favorite restaurant. Start an annual “friend reunion” with far-flung pals and stay in touch by phone the rest of the year. Remember that it’s never too late to make new friends. If there’s someone you connect with but don’t know well, reach out and make plans. It could be the beginning of a beautiful, and health-promoting, friendship.