Childhood Friendship Enhances Health Later In Life

First Posted: Aug 31, 2015 12:46 PM EDT

New findings published in the journal Psychological Science reveal that friendships during adolescence may ultimately influence health into adulthood.

"These results indicate that remaining close to -- as opposed to separating oneself -- from the peer pack in adolescence has long-term implications for adult physical health," Joseph Allen, a researcher at the University of Virginia, said in a statement. "In this study, it was a robust predictor of increased long-term physical health quality."

In this recent study, researchers collected and analyzed data from 171 seventh- and eighth graders followed from ages 13 through 27 years old. They hypothesized that "following the herd" and having close and supportive relationships throughout adolescence could help to lower the risk of having stress-related health problems into adulthood.

Researchers evaluated the health quality of the participants at the ages of 25, 26 and 27 years old, asking them to answer questions regarding their overall health, anxiety and depression symptoms, as well as body mass index.

Findings revealed that high-quality friendships, as well as a drive to fit in were associated with better health around the age of 27. Furthermore, researchers also believe that adolescent relationship qualities may also help to decrease levels of anxiety as well as depressive symptoms.

"Although autonomy-establishing behavior is clearly of value in modern Western society, in which daily survival threats are minimal, it may have become linked to stress reactions over the course of human evolution, when separation from the larger human pack was likely to bring grave danger," Allen and colleagues wrote. "From a risk and prevention perspective, difficulty forming close relationships early in adolescence may now be considered a marker of risk for long-term health difficulties."

However, Allen also noted that difficulty forming close relationships early in adolescence may now be considered a marker of risk for long-term health difficulties.

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