What is friendship? CBC’s The Nature of Things delves into friendships between all kinds of species – specifically humans and animals – in The Secrets of Friendship.
It turns out that close friendships are associated with many indices of well-being, including physical health, mental health, and emotional health.
Dr. Beverley Fehr
Included in this documentary is the research of The University of Winnipeg’s eminent social psychologist, Dr. Beverley Fehr. Dr. Fehr’s expertise in interpersonal relationships and on male friendships and bonding was included in this episode.
“It has only been relatively recently that researchers have begun to examine the benefits of friendships,” shared Dr. Fehr. “It turns out that close friendships are associated with many indices of well-being, including physical health, mental health, and emotional health.”
Dr. Fehr wanted to test whether it would be beneficial for men to open up to their friends. This led her to conduct a series of experiments in which men brought a male friend to the lab and engaged in one of four activities: playing sports (Wii hockey), watching sports (an exciting NHL game), engaging in a casual conversation, or engaging in a more intimate conversation involving self-disclosure.
Because the experiments were interrupted by the pandemic, Dr. Fehr and her team are still collecting data. Her results, to date, indicate that men report more closeness and satisfaction in their friendship when they open up to their friends and when they play sports together (with the intimate talk group slightly in the lead). Watching sports and having a casual conversation do not appear to “move the dial.”
Research has shown that men report less closeness and satisfaction in their same-gender friends than women do. Women and men also have different styles of “doing” friendship, with men focusing more on activities and women’s friendships revolving around talking, generally about personal and relational issues.
However, regardless of gender, Dr. Fehr says “the bottom line is that cultivating and maintaining close friendships is very good for your health.”
To watch this episode of CBC’s The Nature of Things, visit The Secrets of Friendship.