Live Longer With a BFF

"Parents often think teenagers are overly obsessed with their best friends. They should let them be" ( That’s the conclusion from new research published in the journal Child Development. Turns out having a best friend when you’re young impacts your life beyond your teenage years.

Rachel K. Narr, a PhD candidate in clinical psychology at the University of Virginia, led the study of 169 adolescents, who were tracked for ten years, from the age of 15 to 25. The youth were diverse racially, socio-economically and ethnically—and were interviewed at 15 or 16 years of age with a follow up interview at 25. "They were asked who their closest friends were, and detailed questions about their friendships in general. The interviewers also asked them about anxiety, social acceptance, self-worth, and symptoms of depression" (ibid). The researchers "triangulated" the teens’ responses by making sure the best friends they identified in fact considered them best friends as well. They also corroborated that the teens who claimed to be popular were in fact so." (Studies find two types of popularity—"people who are likable—their peers trust them and want to be with them—and those who seek status, and often try to wield that popularity as power" [ibid].)

So what are some of the conclusions researchers have drawn? Narr’s hypotheses include: (1) "Adolescent relationships are critically important because they are the first that teens form outside their families, and come at a time when identity is being formed (as they say, you can pick your friends but not your family); (2) "it’s about the skills a teen develops in forming friendships, rather than the friends themselves; (3) [most] kids won’t have the same best friend at 25 that they had at 15, but making close friends develops the muscles that can become self-defining characteristics [which] help build self-worth, and give kids confidence that they can build trusting relationships, which is something researchers say bodes well for the next chapter of intimacy in life (romantic relationships)" (ibid).

Mitch Prinstein (not part of Narr’s research), a University of North Carolina professor and author of Popular: The Power of Likability In a Status-Obsessed World, maintains that "people who seek to be likable tend to end up in healthier, in better relationships, with more fulfilling work, and even live longer" (ibid). And Joseph Allen, co-author in Narr's UV study, observes: "‘As technology makes it increasingly easy to build a social network of superficial friends, focusing time and attention on cultivating close connections with a few individuals should be a priority’" (ibid).

So how are you with your friends?

Turns out the wise King Solomon was right: "There are friends who pretend to be friends, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24 RSV). And having a best friend like that truly does add years to your life—which must be why God makes this powerful friendship promise: " . . . call upon Me, and I will answer [you]; I will be with [you] in trouble; I will deliver [you] and honor [you]. With long life I will satisfy [you], and show [you] My salvation" (Psalm 91:15, 16 NKJV).

Did you catch that? A "long life" with your Forever Friend—your truly BFF (best friend forever)—what’s not to like about that! As Jesus puts it: "‘And here is how to measure it—the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends. . . . Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me’" (John 15:13, 15 NLT). Just an old rugged cross, to be sure—but kneel there and gaze up at it morning after morning, and you’ll never forget the lengths your BFF went to just to win a friendship with you. And you’ll never keep Him a secret either.