For Men, Time Spent with Family Members Can Be a Lifesaver

There’s plenty of research that shows that people (men and women) who spend time with friends have higher levels of well-being than those who don’t. Makes sense, doesn’t it? A new study just published in a British health journal went a step further. It turns out that having a wide circle of close relatives (outside of one’s own households) also increases well-being—but only in men.

Both men and women had less contact with family than with friends. About 19 percent of men and 16 percent of women had no regular contact with family members, but only 11 percent of both men and women said they had no friends. Ten seems to be the tipping point. Those who have regular contact with 10 or more close friends or relatives had better outcomes that those who had fewer than 10.

People’s employment status and education level often influence their social lives, and that held true in this study. But not the way you’d think (or at least not the way I would have thought). For example, men who continued their education past the age of 20 had smaller networks of relatives than men who’d quit between 17 and 19. The same was true of women. However, when it came to friends, more education reduced the size of men’s circle of friends but increased women’s.

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