Having many friends can help save you from being sad and lonely at midlife. New research has shown that a wide circle of friends can improve the well-being of men and women. However, a wide network of relatives benefits only men.

The study also found that men who stayed with regular education after the age of 16 had few friends and relatives by the time they reached midlife whereas higher education in women meant fewer relatives but more friends.

The study included approximately 16,000 men and women born in Britain in 1958. Participants completed a questionnaire about their psychological well-being at the age of 42. The questionnaire included details of job status and education levels.

Nearly 40 percent of men and 30 percent women reported that they have more than 6 friends. These people scored higher on the psychological well-being test than others. The scores were independent of employment status and past mental history.

Men who didn't stay in school after the age of 16 were 45 percent less likely to have a large network of relatives while those who continued their education after the age of 20 year had a 60 percent lower chance of having many relatives. Women too had a decrease in the number of relatives with higher levels of education but women are 75 percent more likely to have more friends if they stay with full-time education until the age of 20.

The study found that the effect of friends on well-being was greater in women than men.

In the study, almost one in seven people said that they had no close contacts or relatives. Researchers found that psychological well-being was lower in these people. Men who had no friends scored 2.3 points lower on the psychological well-being test while those who had no relatives scored 2.6 points less than others.

Having a partner resulted in more relatives. However, romantic status didn't affect the numbers of friends.

The study was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Published by Medicaldaily.com