From Time: Friends have the unique power to make us feel better, but a good friend gives you more than just a shoulder to cry on or a party companion. New research shows that people who have more friends may be better able to deal with physical pain.
In the study, published in Scientific Reports, researchers took 101 healthy adults and asked them how many close friends they had. An intimate friend was someone they spoke with at least once a week; other close friends included those they contacted about once a month.
The researchers thought that people with more friends might have higher activity of endorphins: molecules released in the brain that regulate pain and makes us feel good. Prior studies have suggested that endorphins are also related to social bonding, so people with larger social networks might therefore also have a higher tolerance for pain. “Endorphins are our body’s natural painkillers, and they’re actually stronger than morphine,” says Katerina Johnson, the paper’s lead author and a doctoral student at the University of Oxford in the U.K.
That’s exactly what they found when they made the people in the study do a wall sit test (which, as anyone who’s squatted against a wall with their knees at 90 degrees can tell you, is an excruciating measure of pain tolerance). People with more friends were able to sit there for longer, and that’s likely because their endorphin activity was stronger, the researchers think.
Read more: Why Friends Are Better Than Morphine