Friendship and Genetics

Updated: Mar 27, 2019


Back in January, I wrote a blog on how the friends we make in our freshman year influence us for the rest of our lives. As that topic was very interesting to me, I kept reading about the topic and found out some interesting facts that I’m sharing with you in this blog-post.

A study by researchers from Stanford, Duke and the University of Wisconsin genetically compared pairs of friends. It turned out that pairs of friends are more genetically similar than random pairs of people. This means that it shouldn't come as a surprise if you’ve ever been told that you and your friend look alike.

The similarities between pairs of friends turned out to be so strong that they are, in fact, noticeable to those who meet you and your friends for the first time. But, not similar in the same way as people would recognize siblings. When looking at the participants' genomes, classmates were about half as genetically similar as friends and significantly more similar than individuals with no ties to one another. In simpler terms, when comparing what the DNA of classmates is made up of it turned out that friends were the most similar to family members. After friends, it showed that classmates had similar genomes, but less than friends and strangers barely had any similarities in their genomes.


You’re very likely to be wondering what causes this phenomenon, the study author suggests that it can be due to one or both of the following reasons. Either it’s because we form bonds with those who are like us, which can be traced back to genetics. Meaning that we feel safer with those who look like us regarding hair color, race or weight, or it can be that we are drawn to those who are in our own social environment, think of people who follow the same education as you or who live in your neighborhood.

The question that arises is, "Do we consciously select people who are similar to ourselves or is that driven by forces beyond our control such as where we live, what school we go to, what our parents are like?" The evidence points to it mostly being beyond our control and is largely the effect of social structures. Social structures and genetics are clearly intertwined, it could be due to the location where you met or the type of parents that you had. But, in any case, it’s clear that the social structures and our genetics are linked together.

While I was skeptical in the beginning, I've come around to being more of a believer, not just because it's an official research paper, but also because I've been told that my friends and I look alike in the past. So, the next time I see my friends, I’m definitely going to be wondering how genetically similar we are.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blogpost are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official views of Phryme Magazine.

#Friends #Friendship #Research