People with more friends have higher pain thresholds, study suggests
Link between larger friendship circles and pain tolerance may be down to the way the brain’s endorphin system has evolved, researchers say The researchers found that larger social networks were linked to a greater pain tolerance, with the number of friends contacted on a monthly (rather than weekly) basis that appeared to be the most important factor.
People with a larger circle of friends are better able to tolerate pain, according to research into the pain thresholds and social networks of volunteers.
The link is thought to be down a system in the brain that involves endorphins: potent pain-killing chemicals produced by the body that also triggers a sense of wellbeing. “At an equivalent dose, endorphins have been shown to be stronger than morphine,” said Katerina Johnson, a doctoral student at the University of Oxford, who co-authored the research.
Writing in the journal Scientific Reports, Johnson and Robin Dunbar, professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Oxford, sought to probe the theory that the brain’s endorphin system might have evolved to not only handle our response to physical discomfort, but influence our experience of pleasure from social interactions too. “Social behavior and being attached to other individuals is really important for our survival – whether that is staying close to our parents, or our offspring or cooperating with others to find food or to help defend ourselves,” said Johnson.