They’re the ones you turn to when you need help moving apartments or motivation for that early morning yoga class. Friends. Studies have shown that having a close group of friends can do wonders for our mental health, self-esteem, and even disease prevention.
But believe it or not, a study from the University of California, San Diego and Yale University has found that although we may not be biologically related to our buddies, it turns out that we are ‘genetically related’.
This means that we’re more similar on a genetic level to the friends we’ve chosen than we are to strangers. We have friends, we have family, and now we have framily.
The researchers found that we’re often as ‘related’ as fourth cousins or people who share the same great-grandparents (they made sure that this wasn’t actually the case with the people used in the study). That means we share about 1% of the same genes, which luckily is not enough to cause a panic if you fall for your housemate.
We will pause for the inevitable sighs of relief.
One explanation for this DNA commonality may lie in your nose
At the top of the list for common genes were those related to the sense of smell. That means that people with similar olfactory genes will smell things the same way. They will thus be attracted to or turned off by, the same smells in the same environments.
This can have an effect on our social connections. For example, people who adore the smell of coffee will be drawn to a coffee shop, and meet people who were also drawn there. As Toucan Sam says, “follow your nose.”
If you thought your friendships were all free will, you may have to think again. As part of the study, the researchers also developed what they call a “friendship score,” which they can now use with some confidence to predict who will be friends. It’s the same kind of data that scientists currently use for predicting a person’s chances of obesity or schizophrenia.
Perhaps in the future, we’ll be relying on DNA tests before we plunge into misguided friendships.
If you’ve ever said, “You are like family to me” you now know it isn’t a trite expression. It could be as true as the genes that you wear.