I just returned from a trip to Baton Rouge where I met with fellow disability advocates to talk about the importance of social capital in every day life. We discussed a number of important aspects of social capital, but in a sidebar conversation a friend asked about the quantity of friends that would be helpful. He knew that our social capital (friends in our lives) enhance the quality of life, but wondered about the quantity it took for quality to unfold.
This question got me to think more about this notion of quantity of friendships, and drew me to a book I had read a number of years ago written by Tom Rath and titled, "Vital Friends." In this work Rath examines all the evidence that has been associated with social capital. He reviews things we know today; that friendship enhances our health, happiness, advancement, achievement, and is especially helpful in our work/business life.
He goes on to say that research suggests we need at least 5 important friends, however, to reap the benefits that social capital brings. Less than 5 key friends, can put us at risk of social isolation. And we know that being socially isolated can be very bad and, in some cases, lethal.
So who are your important friends? How many do you have? More importantly, how can you nurture these relationships to keep them strong and vibrant. As Wadsworth once said; "Without close friends, the world is a wilderness."