There are so many clichés and quotes attached to the importance of family - "blood is thicker than water", "family is family", "the family is a haven in a heartless world", "if a poor man has family, he is rich", "friends come and go but family is for life"... And yet, family also lives at the roots of our stresses, our burdens and our deepest emotional problems. So, with this in mind, are our family relationships all that good for us? Well, science has looked into it.

In a US study undertaken by Michigan State University, researchers have found that, actually, friends are for life, and we should treat them as such. "Friendships become even more important as we age," says William Chopik, a Michigan State University assistant professor of psychology. "Keeping a few really good friends around can make a world of difference for our health and well-being. So it's smart to invest in the friendships that make you happiest."

Looking at 271,053 people from close-to 100 countries, Chopik analysed information about relationships, health and happiness, finding that relationships with family and friends had a direct link to health and happiness (duh, really), but it was only the relationships with friends that  predicted better health and happiness as we got older. Chopik also undertook a second study looking at the relationship support and chronic illness of 7,481 older-aged US adults, finding that when friends were a negative influence,  chronic illness was higher, but when friends were the main source of support, participants were much happier.

As part of the findings, Chopik said that friendships become more important to our happiness over time, because, and as anyone who's undertaken a friend-detox will know, that as we get older, we ditch the filler and keep the killers. And who else are we going to whinge to when our family are being annoying af?  "There are now a few studies starting to show just how important friendships can be for older adults," says the assistant professor. "Summaries of these studies show that friendships predict day-to-day happiness more and ultimately how long we'll live, more so than spousal and family relationships,"

It seems "you can't choose your family, but you can choose your friends," may just be a smarter saying to live by.

Friends vs family: study shows who is better for us