I write fiction that celebrates the power of friendship. Although my novels are very different from one another in form, style, and setting, that is the one constant.
In my collection of essays, “Pitching My Tent: On Marriage, Motherhood, Friendship, and Other Leaps of Faith” the subtitle elevates friendship to the level of family. And whenever I speak about the way that popular culture denigrates women’s friendships (mean girls, frenemies, bitchy bosses) and say, “That’s what sells, I suppose. But the nasty exceptions miss the most important point: women friends keep each other sane!” The audience smiles and nods a collective head.
So it’s nice to see that as of today, the most forwarded article in the New York Times details the health benefits of friendship — especially among women. The article, “What Are Friends For?” ran in the Science section, and reports the obvious: Friendships are good for you. (The second half of that headline: “A Longer Life.”)
Mostly, the story focuses on women’s friendships and a book called “The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and a 40-year Friendship.” But it also included citations from a few scientific studies that show reduced rates of heart disease and even head colds among those who tend to their buddies. And then there’s this:
Last year, researchers studied 34 students at the University of Virginia, taking them to the base of a steep hill and fitting them with a weighted backpack. They were then asked to estimate the steepness of the hill. Some participants stood next to friends during the exercise, while others were alone.
The students who stood with friends gave lower estimates of the steepness of the hill. And the longer the friends had known each other, the less steep the hill appeared.
Pass it on.