Friends offer stability in women's lives: study

Researcher Orit Ben-Harush from the Creative Industries Faculty, wanted to find out how important women felt their friendships were, and how they kept in touch with friends after moving away. She found that it was very important for women to hold onto old friendships as well as to develop new ones.

Dr Ben-Harush, who moved to Australia from Israel five years ago, said the study of what she termed “friendworks” was inspired by her personal experience when relocating and establishing a local social network.

She spoke to women aged from 35 to their mid-70s who had moved as adults to Ocean Shores, a NSW sea-change town, to find out how important friendships were to them and how they stayed in touch with their friends.

She said women cherished many different kinds of friendships which reflected different times in their lives and involved companionship and emotional support.

“The one exception to this was best friends – best friends were intense relationships which lasted over many years and many miles, with all of the women I spoke to,” said Dr Ben-Harush.

“The thing that the women I interviewed had in common was that they had all undergone a sea change in adulthood. They all expressed a need for friendships. Most friendworks were a combination of distant (old) and local (new) friendships.

“As they moved around, and things in their lives changed, friendship – in the true sense of the word – was seen as a source of stability.

“Whether they had 10 friends or 40, they all felt it was important to keep in touch with friends, and while face-to-face interaction was preferred, email was also extremely popular, even with interviewees who were retirees.

“The only exception I found was for emotional issues – if women had a burning emotional issue, they wanted to talk on the phone, but for general maintenance of friendship, they did prefer email.”

A surprising thing Dr Ben-Harush said she found was that most women reported little and basic mobile phone use, mainly using it for co-ordination purposes.

Dr Ben-Harush interviewed 26 women and said she deliberately kept her study small and local to highlight the friendwork aspect of localities and to research in-depth different aspects of friendships.

“These were all women who had moved in adulthood and possibly represent a much larger trend of sea-changers and more mature populations,” she said.

“With big studies, often you can lose representation of specific population or age groups: women of this age group can often blend in with the overall data, which is why I chose a small study.”

Media contact: Sharon Thompson, QUT media officer: 3138 2999 or [email protected]