Why 5 is the magic number if you want long-lasting friends

Five is the magic number when it comes to friends
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Forget the rule of six ruining your social life. It seems five is more than enough for a good time.

That's because new research has found we only need five friends in our friendship group in order to be happy. But, before you start deleting people off Facebook, or scrubbing childhood acquaintances out of your address book, there are a few more rules to follow. As, just like the Spice Girls, a group of friends should be made up of a mix of personalities. It seems opposites really do attract. And that's not all. For better friends, you need to argue – at least twice a year!

The study, involving 2,000 Brits, by Interflora and expertKate Leaver, author of The Friendship Cure, found that a mix of personality traits is key.That means friendship groupsshould be comprised of five different personalities to really make it work. This includes ‘the sensible one’, ‘the organiser’, ‘the joker’, ‘the party animal’ and ‘the dramatic one’. And, even if you manage to form your girlband, the survey found you should be part of TWO different groups, for real happiness.

“Evolutionary psychologists believe that our brains can handle 150 friendships," says Kate. "But they would agree that it’s your closest five who really matter. Other studies have suggested that people who have three to five friends are the happiest and most satisfied with their lives. That old adage is true – we’re lucky if we can count our closest mates on one hand. I think it’s really important to remember that."Here's everything you need to know:

The recipe for having long-lasting friends

The study concluded that following this formula could result in friendships lasting over 23 years:

  1. Having two main friendship groups
  2. Living apart from each other
  3. Five different personalities: the sensible one, the organiser, the joker, the dramatic one, and the party animal
  4. Catching-up individually with each member via text/WhatsApp – x 73 days a year
  5. Showing vulnerability – x 100 times a year
  6. Talking through problems / offering advice – x 50 times a year
  7. Having a face-to-face catch-up as a whole group – x 6 times a year
  8. Argue - at least twice a year
  9. Taking an annual holiday/trip as a group – once a year
  10. Celebrating friendship anniversary/milestone – once a year

Traits we really value in our friendships

So, what do Brits look for in the ultimate friend? The top trait 70% of us said was most important was honesty. This was followed by 61% wanting to know a friend will always be there for them. Despite this, a third of people will never share how much a best friend means to them, and 39% would never buy a best friend a gift when it’s not their birthday.

And do Facebook friends count as real friends? Interflora’s research also shows that on average we have 201 Facebook friends, but 55% of us never see most of them, and 68% don’t consider many Facebook friends to be actual friends.

“It's OK to have just a handful of really close friends," says Kate. "We tend to interact with so many people online that we forget what counts as real friendship. We don’t have the time or energy or love or brain capacity to maintain hundreds or thousands of close friendships. It’s vastly more important to nurture and protect and celebrate a few very special friendships."

Faye M Smith

Faye M Smith is an award-winning journalist with over 15 years experience in the magazine industry. Her continued work in the area of natural health won her the coveted title of the Health Food Manufacturers’ Association (HFMA) Journalist of the Year Award 2021. Currently Health Editor across several brands including woman&home, Woman and Woman’s Own, Faye specialises in writing about mental health, the menopause, and sex and relationships.