Tribe: The Context


In this article, a definitive look at what philosophers, theologians, psychologists, and scientists throughout history have thought regarding the value of friendship.

The Strong Tie Between Your Tribe and Your Happiness

Your tribe and your happiness are strongly correlated. Those with strong social ties...
  • Tend to live longer and have better physical health
  • Have greater job satisfaction and work performance, academic competence 
  • Are more creative
Psychological health has been strongly tied to social relationships, including:
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Substance use
  • Feelings of self worth and self esteem 

Social relationship quality may contribute to well-being in important ways. Social support specifically refers to the sense of being taken care of, listened to, loved, and appreciated.

Strength Through Connections

The idea that social relationships are good for us is more than just a bit of folk wisdom. Human relationships have been studied for decades, and scientists have found ample evidence that our level of connection to other people is closely linked to things like health, happiness, success and general well-being.

Forming relationships with other individuals or groups of people produces positive benefits. For example, stronger interpersonal connections are linked to reduced stress and reductions in heart-related risks, as well as to longer life. On the flip side, a lack of human connectedness is associated with negative effects. Loneliness and social isolation, for example, are linked to poorer health, to depression, and to increased risk of early death.

This can mean forming relationships at work, or it can mean finding people who share similar hobbies and interests outside of work. For example, you could look for volunteer opportunities in your community and share some constructive activities with the other participants. No matter what the venue, the positive effects on human health from involvement with other people have been shown to be potent.

Good quality social contact, such as collaborating on activities, benefits mental health. When people are introduced to a variety of interactive social activities, regardless of what the specific exercise is, social wellbeing, mental wellbeing, and self-reported mental health improved significantly from before the start of the activity until after.

Simple belongingness appears to have multiple and strong effects on emotional patterns and on cognitive processes. Building friendships is believed to have benefited the evolution of the human race through natural selection and subjective well-being. Acts of kindness such as giving and providing support help create positive connection to others.

And it’s not only mental health that gets a boost. Your immune system actually benefits due to your relationships with other people. In one study, more than 200 healthy volunteers were exposed to the common cold virus and observed in a controlled environment. The results were pretty amazing; people’s resilience against the virus was positively correlated with the strength of their social networks. That is, deeper social connections were directly aligned with a stronger immune response.

Another physical health benefit is that people are more able to successfully demonstrate good personal behaviors (such as avoiding drinking and quitting smoking) if they have a larger, deeper social network. So if you have health-related habits that you’d like to improve on, your social network is there to support you and make it easier to succeed.

What else? Your network helps you achieve higher levels of success! Just feeling like you belong to a group is linked to increases in motivation. Studies have shown that with each additional social-link, there is an increase in motivation and persistence on tasks. This could be done by building group goals amongst friends or by collaborating on performance-oriented tasks at work.

In the workplace, “higher workplace social capital” is linked to lower stress, fewer mental health problems like depression and anxiety, and better health-related behaviors Specific to men in the workplace, higher quality close male friendships are associated with career success and job satisfaction (more so than in women). But for women, organizations that encourage and support positive social relationships between women coworkers are associated with lower levels of interpersonal conflict between female employees. Which is to say, strong workplace social connections have positive benefits for everyone.

To sum up, there’s a lot of evidence out there to suggest that you will benefit in your journey from building relationships, whether they be at home, at the workplace or in external social situations. So take some time every day this month to either cultivate new positive relationships or to strengthen existing ones.

Modern Philosophy, Psychology, & Science

Modern science and psychology recognize the importance of friendship as a means of promoting personal growth and well-being. Research has shown that having strong social connections can promote physical and mental health, increase happiness, and reduce stress. Psychologists have also identified key factors that contribute to healthy friendships, such as shared values, trust, and emotional support. Social media and digital communication have also been shown to have both positive and negative effects on friendship, highlighting the importance of understanding how technology affects our relationships.

Modern philosophy recognizes the importance of friendship as a means of promoting personal growth and well-being. Contemporary philosophers such as Martha Nussbaum and Alasdair MacIntyre have emphasized the role of friendship in developing moral character and promoting human flourishing. They argue that friendships based on shared values and mutual concern can provide important emotional and practical support. Modern philosophers also recognize the importance of online friendships and social media in maintaining and fostering relationships in the digital age.

Axial Philosophies Overall

The Axial Philosophies emphasized the importance of friendship and the impact of quality friendships on an individual's life. According to Confucianism, friendship is based on mutual respect and trust and is essential for personal growth and happiness. In Stoicism, friendship is seen as a means of achieving virtue and living a good life. Aristotle believed that true friendship requires shared values and interests and is characterized by mutual goodwill and concern. These philosophies recognized the importance of friendship in promoting personal growth and well-being.

Confucianism & Daoism

Confucianism and Daoism both placed a high value on friendship. Confucianism saw friendship as an essential aspect of the virtuous life, emphasizing the importance of mutual respect, trust, and loyalty. Daoism saw friendship as a way to cultivate harmony with others and the natural world, focusing on the importance of spontaneity and naturalness in relationships. Both philosophies emphasized the importance of cultivating meaningful relationships in order to live a fulfilling life.

Hinduism & Buddhism

Hinduism recognizes the importance of friendship as a means of promoting personal growth and spiritual development. The concept of "satsang" or association with the wise is emphasized as a way to cultivate positive relationships and learn from others. The Bhagavad Gita teaches that a true friend is one who supports and encourages one's spiritual journey. Hinduism also places importance on the principle of "seva," or selfless service, as a means of strengthening bonds of friendship.

Buddhism emphasizes the importance of cultivating loving-kindness and compassion towards all beings, including friends. Buddhist teachings stress the importance of friendship as a means of promoting spiritual growth, particularly through spiritual friendship or "kalyana-mittata." The Buddha also taught the importance of wise and virtuous friends who can provide guidance and support on the path to enlightenment. Buddhism sees friendship as a key aspect of the spiritual journey towards liberation from suffering.

Traditional Western Philosophy & Stoics

Traditional western philosophy, including the Stoics, saw friendship as a means of promoting personal and moral growth. The Stoics emphasized the importance of cultivating friendships based on shared virtues and values, focusing on the role of friends in supporting one another in the pursuit of wisdom and living a good life. Aristotle believed that true friendship required mutual goodwill and concern, and that a life without friends would be unbearable. These philosophies recognized the importance of meaningful relationships in promoting personal well-being.

Christianity, Judaism, Islam

Christianity recognizes the importance of friendship as a means of promoting personal growth and spiritual development. Jesus is seen as a model of selfless friendship, and Christian teachings emphasize the importance of loving others as oneself. The Bible contains numerous references to friendship, including the importance of seeking out wise and trustworthy friends and the role of friendship in providing emotional support and guidance. Christian teachings also stress the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation in maintaining healthy friendships.

This is also quite true for Judaism, regarding the importance of friendship as a means of promoting personal growth and well-being, the importance of loving others as oneself, treating others with kindness and compassion, the role of friends in providing emotional support and guidance, and the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation in maintaining healthy friendships.

Islam also recognizes the importance of friendship as a means of promoting personal growth and well-being. Islamic teachings stress the importance of treating others with kindness, compassion, and respect, and the Quran encourages believers to cultivate strong relationships with others. The Prophet Muhammad is seen as a model of selfless friendship, and Islamic tradition emphasizes the importance of maintaining close relationships with family and friends. Islamic teachings also stress the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation in maintaining healthy friendships.

Further Reading

“Building Social Bonds - Connections That Promote Well-Being”

“Do Social Ties Affect Our Health?”

“Social Connectedness”

“Connectedness & Health: The Science of Social Connection”



  1. Ames, R. T., & Rosemont, H. Jr. (2009). The Analects of Confucius: A Philosophical Translation. Ballantine Books.
  2. Aristotle. (2009). Nicomachean Ethics. Penguin Classics.
  3. Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497–529.
  4. Brad Bowins, Editor(s): Brad Bowins, States and Processes for Mental Health, Academic Press 2021, ISBN 9780323850490,
  5. Chambel, M. J., & Curral, L. (2005). Stress in academic life: Work characteristics as predictors of student well-being and performance. Applied Psychology, 54, 135-147.
  6. Cohen, S. (2004). Social relationships and health. American Psychologist, 59, 676-684.
  7. Cohen S, Doyle WJ, Skoner DP, Rabin BS, Gwaltney JM Jr. Social ties and susceptibility to the common cold. JAMA. 1997 Jun 25;277(24):1940-4. PMID: 9200634.
  8. Cotton, S. J., Dollard, M. F., & de Jonge, J. (2002). Stress and student job design: Satisfaction, well-being, and performance in university students. International Journal of Stress Management, 9, 147-162.
  9. Cutrona, C. E., & Russell, D. W. (1987). The provisions of social relationships and adaptation to stress. Advances in Personal Relationships, 1, 37-67.
  10. Dalai Lama. (1999). The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching. Three Rivers Press.
  11. Diener, E., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Very happy people. Psychological Science, 13, 80-83.
  12. Diener, E., & Seligman, M. E. (2004). Beyond money: Toward an economy of well-being. Psychological science in the public interest, 5(1), 1-31.
  13. Duck, S., & Perlman, D. (Eds.). (2014). Understanding Personal Relationships: An Interdisciplinary Approach. Routledge.
  14. Easwaran, E. (2007). The Bhagavad Gita. Nilgiri Press.
  15. Esposito, J. L. (2002). What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam. Oxford University Press.
  16. Graver, M. R. (2007). Stoicism and Emotion. University of Chicago Press.
  17. House, J. S., Landis, K. R., & Umberson, D. (1988). Social relationships and health. Science, 241, 540-545.
  18. Ivanhoe, P. J., & Van Norden, B. W. (Eds.). (2019). Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy. Hackett Publishing.
  19. Kawachi, I., & Berkman, L. F. (2001). Social ties and mental health. Journal of Urban Health, 78, 458-467.
  20. Lewis D., Al-Shawaf L., Russell E., Buss D. (2015) Friends and Happiness: An Evolutionary Perspective on Friendship. In: Demir M. (eds) Friendship and Happiness. Springer, Dordrecht.
  21. MacIntyre, A. (1985). After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory. University of Notre Dame Press.
  22. Markiewicz, D., Devine, I. and Kausilas, D. (2000), "Friendships of women and men at work: Job satisfaction and resource implications", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 15 No. 2, pp. 161-184.
  23. Nussbaum, M. C. (2013). The Therapy of Desire: Theory and Practice in Hellenistic Ethics. Princeton University Press.
  24. Perry-Smith, J. E. (2006). Social yet creative: The role of social relationships in facilitating individual creativity. Academy of Management Journal, 49, 85-101.
  25. Resnick, M. D., Bearnman, P. S., Blum, R. W., Bauman, K. E., Harris, K. M., Jones, J., et al. (1997). Protecting adolescents from harm: Findings from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 278, 823-832.
  26. Richards, M., Hardy, R., & Wadsworth, M. (1997). The effects of divorce and separation on mental health in a national UK birth cohort. Psychological Medicine, 27, 1121-1128.
  27. Staff, Science X. “Strong Friendships among Women in the Workplace Reduce Conflict, According to New Study.”,, 14 July 2017,
  28. Taylor, Z. E., Doane, L. D., & Eisenberg, N. (2013). Transitioning from high school to college: Relations of social support, ego-resiliency, and maladjustment during emerging adulthood. Emerging Adulthood, 2, 105-115.
  29. Telushkin, J. (1997). Jewish Wisdom: Ethical, Spiritual, and Historical Lessons from the Great Works and Thinkers. William Morrow Paperbacks.
  30. The Holy Bible, New International Version. Biblica, 2011.
  31. Umberson, D., Williams, K., Powers, D. A., Liu, H., & Needham, B. (2006). You make me sick: Marital quality and health over the life course. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 47, 1-16.
  32. Walton, G. M., Cohen, G. L., Cwir, D., & Spencer, S. J. (2012). Mere belonging: The power of social connections. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102(3), 513–532.
  33. Wong, D. (2019). Friendship and Community: The Axial Philosophies. In The Oxford Handbook of Virtue (pp. 247-262). Oxford University Press.