Mind & Body

This Is How Many Hours it Takes to Make a Friend

Think of somebody you met in the past six months. Did you meet them through work or school, or somewhere else? Do you have their number in your phone? How often do you talk to them? Sorry, don't mind all of these questions — we're just trying to determine scientifically if you made a friend or not.

0 to Friendly in 50 Hours

Check out one of the most heartwarming scientific studies of all time. Communications studies professor Jeffrey Hall just had one question he wanted to answer: how long does it take to make a friend? To answer that question, he took a close look at two different groups of people. The first was comprised of 355 adults he asked to complete an online survey. To qualify, they had to have moved to a new city sometime in the past six months, and they had to be actively seeking new friendships in their brand-new hometowns. Hall gathered data on how this search for friendship progressed, asking questions such as "Did you meet at work?", "How much time do you spend together per week?", and "Do you usually do fun activities together or do you usually accomplish necessary tasks instead?"

The second group of participants was also adjusting to new circumstances. This younger group consisted of 112 freshmen who had just moved to Lawrence, Kansas to attend KU. He asked the freshmen about two people they had met in the past two weeks, then followed up seven weeks later to discover if they had become BFFs. Taken together, the data from these two groups painted a pretty clear picture of how a friendship develops.

According to Hall, it takes somewhere between 40 and 60 hours to make a casual friend, about 80 to 100 hours to become a friend-friend, and 200 hours or more to become a close friend. But these can't be just any hours — leisure time makes friends much more effectively than hard work does. Beyond that, as a friendship gains momentum, it's likely to continue in that direction. As the volunteers' relationships transitioned from acquaintance to casual friend to friend to close friend, the people would spend even more time together, creating a snowball effect that forged closer friendships. That effect was most strongly seen in the youngest participants, whom Hall noticed were willing to spend up to a third of their waking hours with their new buddies.

Curious about the friendship factor of your various relationships? Try this online tool designed by Hall and a colleague, which can give you a (very informal) assessment of your newest friendships.

Friends for Life

When we make friends, we're not necessarily doing it because we feel a physical need — not in the same way that we eat because we feel the physical compulsion to do so, anyway. But it can't be denied that humans are a social animals with a biological drive to make connections. And some other studies have been able to quantify exactly what friendship does for us.

Remember those two groups of participants, and how the younger group was more willing to devote numerous hours to making friends? That pattern might have a biological basis. According to a 2015 study that Hall used to guide his research, having friends has a positive effect on your lifespan, but what kinds of friends depends on your age. For younger people, it's more important to have many friends, but the quality of those relationships doesn't have a significant effect on lifespan. After a decade or so, however, that ratio flips — for people in their 30s, it's the quality of their relationships and not the quantity of them that counts. Well, whatever your age and however many friends you have, just remember that you've got one in us.

How the Internet Is Changing Friendship

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Written by Reuben Westmaas May 4, 2018

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