The Friendship Cure is a non-fiction book which considers the role of friendships in our lives.
Kate Leaver is a renowned journalist. Her research has considered many types of friendships, from those which form in our early years, teenage friends, workplace friends, casual acquaintances, social media friendships, toxic friends and those all important life-long friends. Leaver has used scientific findings and her own experiences, as well as results from interviewing members of the public.
The book packs in a lot of material. As with much non-fiction writing, some parts were of more personal interest than others. I liked the section about using social media to make new friendships by creating the opportunities to meet face-to-face. I also liked the piece on workplace friendships, including work-wives and work-husbands and how these are beneficial to both employees and employers. It made me think of several examples of unhappy competitive businesses where office politics make the environment an unhappy space.
Another interesting topic was the one about loneliness and how some people think it could be the next great public health epidemic. Leaver writes that becoming socially isolated might be as dangerous as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day, particularly as we age and our circle of friends diminishes. This one linked well to the piece on mental health and how important friendship can be, in recovery, for anyone suffering from any form of health imbalance.
There’s a lovely part about how companionship can be linked to longevity. A small town in Sardinia is, apparently, the only place in the world where the men live as long as the women. There are more than six times the amount of centenarians living there than in mainland Italy. Through a system of social integration these centenarians are looked after by multiple layers of loving, caring family and friends.
It did take me a while to get through this book, but several chapters made me think about my own friendships and how I might maintain those relationships as I grow older. This is the type of book which could be an ideal gift to the right sort of friend in your own life.
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Our best friends, gal-pals, bromances, Twitter followers, Facebook friends, long distance buddies and WhatsApp threads define us in ways we rarely openly acknowledge. There is so much about friendship we either don’t know or don’t articulate: why do some friendships last a lifetime, while others are only temporary? How do you ‘break up’ with a toxic friend? Can men and women really be platonic? And maybe the most important question: how can we live in the most interconnected age and still find ourselves stuck in the greatest loneliness epidemic of our time? It’s killing us, making us miserable and causing a public health crisis. What if meaningful friendships are the solution, not a distraction?
Kate Leaver’s much anticipated manifesto argues that friendship can cure the modern malaise of solitude, ignorance, ill health and angst. She looks at what friendship means, how it can survive, why we need it and what we can do to get the most from it. From behavioural scientists to best mates, Kate finds extraordinary stories and research, drawing on her own experiences to create a fascinating blend of accessible ‘smart thinking’, investigative journalism, pop culture and memoir.