The happiness in one country compared with another can be largely explained by six key factors…
[the first]: the proportion of people who say that other people can be trusted…' Ray Pahl, a professor at the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex, agrees about the primary importance of trust.
It was at her boss's wedding that Sophie Holland decided, with stone-cold certainty, that she wanted to be next down the aisle. Simon, one of her closest friends for the previous three years. We'd stayed overnight at his parents' house, and I woke up and thought, "I am going to ask him to marry me."' Until then Sophie, 40, had worked alongside Simon, 44, in a fabric shop in Soho, London.
She'd found this affable, gentle man appealing as a shoulder to cry on when her succession of thrilling but chaotic relationships dissolved.
'I had no idea that Sophie's feelings for me had changed,' he recalls.
'After a few months of first meeting her I realised I was attracted to her, and as time went by my feelings grew a lot stronger.
Subconsciously you're deciding whether you can take it further, from a friendship on to a more emotional and sexual level.' Of course, the overlap in what we want from both friends and partners is significant.
In a poll conducted for the women's website 83 per cent of female participants believed that a purely platonic friendship could exist between men and women.
Secretly I hoped there might be a future for us, so when she proposed I couldn't have been happier – or more gobsmacked.' In her book, Things I Wish My Mother Had Told Me, Lucia van der Post writes: 'All I know is that love comes out of the blue, sometimes when you least expect it, and that the key is not necessarily to go looking for it but to keep your heart and mind open to a wider horizon.' Yet, where friendship is concerned, the trigger that instigates a full swing into commitment is complex. Perhaps Sophie had tired of flitting through relationships and wanted someone more dependable?
I'd go on dates with other men and find myself thinking about him, and once I joked that we should get together.
I suppose I was testing the water to judge his reaction.
But, when probed further, one third said they secretly lusted after their male friends.
It seems that physical attraction is often a by-product of a cemented companionship.