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Why We Need Friends — Especially Now

Broadcast: Jan. 31, 2021 at 4:00 p.m.

We rely on our friends for all kinds of things — companionship, laughter, and right now — support in times of crisis. But it's only recently that scientists have started investigating how friendship works, and why it matters to our well-being and health. 

In this episode, we explore the anatomy of this unique bond, with stories about what happens when friendship turns romantic, the painful experience of bestie breakups, and how friendships can form between unlikely animal pairings.

How cancer brought these two friends together
Dakota Fisher-Vance and Cara Schafer were both diagnosed with cancer in their early 20s. They talk to us about how being young adults with cancer brought them together, and why having a shared illness has made their bond stronger.

More than just a friend
What happens when two people start out as just friends and their relationship develops into something romantic? Reporter Jad Sleiman looks at the different types of attraction, and the ways they can change.

Finding new friends
Do friendship apps actually work? Reporter Buffy Gorrilla takes us on a journey as she navigates different apps while looking for friendship in Australia.

The painful path of friend breakups
It’s normal to lose friends as life evolves. But while most friendship endings are a gradual fade or fizzle, others are explosive breakups. Reporter Steph Yin explores why some friendships rupture and how we can approach friend breakups in a way that minimizes damage?

Sloth bear buddies
Some animals form something akin to what we think of as friendship. It’s usually animals that live in “stable, bonded social groups,” like primates or whales. But sometimes, friendships happen with animals that aren’t usually candidates for that kind of relationship. Liz Tung reports on an unlikely friendship between two bears at the Philadelphia Zoo.

Conversations with host Maiken Scott

How friends impact our health
Science journalist Lydia Denworth discusses why friendship is essential to our health and to our survival. She is the author of “Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond.”

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