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Live Longer and Love Stronger: The Gentle Power of Female Friendships

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Queen's U chapter.

On February 1, 2023, the legendary 85-year-old activist and actress Jane Fonda sat down on Spotify’s Call Her Daddy podcast to talk about her life and the lessons she’s learned along the way. When asked what the most rewarding benefit of having a strong group of female friends was, Fonda paused, thoughtfully considering her answer, and replied with this:

“Your health. There was a study done by Harvard Medical School that said that not having women friends is as bad for your health as smoking. And, you know, men sit side by side looking outward: at cars, at women—oh wow, look at that one—, at sports… women look into each other’s eyes. And they ask for help, they show their vulnerability. That’s so important.”

As a 19-year-old woman and a psychology major, I believe the close friendships I have with other women are by far some of the most important, impactful, and influential relationships I will ever have in my lifetime. My female friends were the first people outside my family to show me what true unconditional love feels like. They are my biggest supporters and I am theirs, whether it has been two hours or two years since we’ve seen each other. 

By looking at everything from predictive factors to personality traits to cognitive development, the following research agrees: good female friendships have immensely positive impacts on your mental and emotional health. 


Have you ever hear the saying, “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”? Well, it might hold some truth. Whereas a lot of people might think that close friendships are only based on having similar personality traits, one study suggested that same-sex friendships are primarily based on mutual satisfaction and availability/proximity to other people. Because humans rely on social relationships for survival, the people we surround ourselves with have a direct impact on our happiness and overall well-being. Because of this, it’s more important than ever that we choose our friends wisely.

Fortunately, that’s what many women often do. Another study looked at the development and progression of friendships between female university students over 10 years. This study found that these friendships provided a space for women to confide in and validate each other, to raise each other’s self-esteem and self-confidence, and to learn from and challenge each other intellectually. The researchers also found that, on the whole, these friendships were characterized by vulnerability, stress-relief, consistent communication, feelings of safety, and emotional intimacy.

Although a lot of the media content we see on TikTok and Netflix feels like a competition of “who can care less”, emotional intimacy and being vulnerable with each other are the backbone of good female friendships. Friendships between women that are high in empathy and effective emotional communication have impacts across your whole life; they are associated with higher ratings of overall friendship quality, feelings of acceptance, better emotional regulation abilities, and more fulfilling social connections.

These friendships give women a space to be mutually understood while also helping women understand their “self-authorship”: a concept one participant describes as “not who I was then, but who I developed into”. In other words, you and your friends grow together. These findings remained true both in university and 10 years afterwards.


The bottom line: good female friendships are wonderful, fulfilling, and have endless positive impacts on your emotional, social, and psychological well-being. They’re the type of people who leave you with a golden, glowing ball of light in your chest as you walk away from them. 

I like the idea that, along with qualities that are just mine, I am made up of little pieces of every woman I’ve ever met—I draw the letter ‘E’ the same way my fourth-grade best friend did, I get weirdly happy when I notice myself using my close friend’s catchphrase, and I still tie my shoes using the bunny-ear method because that’s the way my mom showed me when I was four. 

So whether you’re looking for love or trying to get to know yourself better, take a long look at your female friends. Even if you don’t quite know who you are yet, I can almost guarantee they’ll have a pretty good idea.

Check out these research studies if you want to learn more:

Molly Robertson

Queen's U '25

Molly is a second-year psychology student studying at Queen's University. When she's not at CoGro, you can find Molly listening to the Lumineers, trying to decide on her next tattoo, or spending all her money on coffee.