It has often been said that friends are the family we get to choose. That statement couldn’t be truer after a study showing that friends who are not biologically linked can still resemble one another genetically. Head of the study, James Fowler, stated that in many cases ‘we have more DNA in common with the people we pick as friends than we do with strangers in the same populations’.
The study has shown that the genetic resemblance we have with our friends is equal to that between fourth cousins: approximately 1%. For many people, their distant cousin is entirely unknown to them. As a result, the concept that in a sea of strangers we pick friends that can genetically resemble our own family holds great scientific significance.
Getting to grips with the numbers
Comparing unrelated pairs of friends and pairs of strangers, the study used 1,932 participants all drawn from the same population. As a result, researchers claim that the findings of the study are questionable due to most of the participants being of European origin. You can read more about the lack of inter-ethnic relationships here and make your own mind up about the issue.
Researchers talk of mutual benefits and the study cites the example that ‘if your friend feels cold when you do and builds a fire, you both benefit’. Rewards can only be enjoyed in a friendship when there is someone else to enjoy it with. For example, the ability to speak would be useless if there was no one to share your thoughts with; perhaps a reason why we seek friends that are genetically similar to us. It may also explain why we choose to settle down with people similar to us, grow old together and buy a McCarthy and Stone retirement home together, because it means we can share and mutually enjoy our gifts.
The value of friendship
Interestingly, the study also showed that the shared genes between friends developed quicker than the others. Researchers have said that this could explain why evolution has appeared to speed up over recent years; the social environment we have created is a driving force for evolutionary development.
So, as unusual as it may seem, there really are genetic similarities between you and your friends – even enough to make you fourth cousins! To read more about the study, visit sciencedaily.com and educate yourself on just how similar you and your friends may be.