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Friendships Positively Impact Every Area of Quality of Life

By Carli Friedman, CQL Director of Research

Friendship has many benefits; it can increase one’s emotional and mental well being, and result in more positive engagement, and community participation. For people with disabilities in particular, friendship with other peers with disabilities can facilitate disability identity and help them navigate systemic challenges. Unfortunately, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are more likely to have fewer friends and see their friends less. They are also more likely to consider staff friends which is problematic given a common lack of reciprocity and high staff turnover rates. These disparities are in large part because of a lack of opportunities for fostering and maintaining friendship.

The purpose of this study conducted by CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership was to explore what factors result in people with IDD being more likely to have friends, and how does having friends (outcomes present) impact the quality of life of people with IDD.

Friendship of People with IDD (= 1,341)

Findings revealed that while the majority of participants had friends, fewer were satisfied with the number of friends they had and the amount of contact their had with their friends (figure 1). Moreover, only about half of the 1,300 participants with IDD had organizational supports in place to facilitate friendship (figure 2). The lack of organizational supports is particularly problematic given findings also revealed when organizational supports are in place for friendship, people with disabilities are 30 times more likely to have friends.

Organizational Supports for Friendship (= 1,341)

We also found that having friends increases the likelihood of every area of quality of life being present. For example, people with IDD with friends are 2 times more likely to realize personal goals compared to those without friends. People with disabilities with friends are 6 times more likely to perform different social roles compared to those without friends. Compared to those without friends people are 7 times more likely to participate in the life of the community.

As friendship can improve every area of one’s life, it is crucial organizations support people with IDD to develop, maintain, and grow their friendships.

This article is a summary of the following journal manuscript: Friedman, C., & Rizzolo, M. C. (2018). Friendship, quality of life, and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 30(1), 39-54.