A new study has revealed that having close friendships in adolescence can lower the risk of health problems in adulthood.
Joseph P. Allen of the University of Virginia said that these results indicated that remaining close to the peer pack in adolescence had long-term implications for adult physical health.
In the study, the researchers recruited a diverse group of 171 seventh- and eighth-graders and followed them from ages 13 through 27 years old.
Each participant nominated their closest same-gendered friend at the time to be included in the study. From ages 13 through 17, the participants’ best friend filled out a questionnaire assessing the overall quality of the friendship, including the degree of trust, communication, and alienation in the relationship.
According to the results, both high-quality close friendships and a drive to fit in with peers in adolescence were associated with better health at age 27, even after taking other potentially influential variables such as household income, body mass index, and drug use into account.
The findings indicated that adolescent relationship qualities might come to influence adult health through decreased levels of later anxiety and depressive symptoms.
Allen said that although autonomy-establishing behavior was clearly of value in modern Western society, in which daily survival threats were minimal, it might 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 explained that difficulty forming close relationships early in adolescence might now be considered a marker of risk for long-term health difficulties.
The study is published in the Journal Psychological Science.