There is a friend for every season and every reason, but true friendships change your life.
A 20-year friendship between two chimpanzees, Jayson and Nikita, at the Lucknow Zoo in India was in the news recently. The zoo was planning to separate them because they weren't reproducing. Indeed, these two were simply the best of friends. Fortunately for Jayson and Nikita, protests by the public and scientists halted this ill-conceived plan. For me, this brought up interesting questions about how friendships might be adaptive, influence your life and success, and how different degrees of friendship can be helpful or harmful to our well-being.
In humans, we know that having strong social bond reduces stress and lowers the risk of disease and the same is true for animals. Social network analysis, which looks at how connected individuals are with one another is revealing that all kinds of animals have buddies and, like us, some individuals are tremendously popular. I like to think of social network analysis as Facebook for animals, except it's grounded in real-world interactions. A recent study of vervet monkeys revealed that those with more social ties, or friends, were able to stay warmer on chilly nights, presumably because they could huddle together with more friends. And it's not just primates. In wild horses, social network analysis revealed that females with more friends experienced less harassment by males, higher birth rates, and greater survival when compared with females that had fewer pals. This means that friendship can have immediate benefits that over time may increase your survival and success.