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Close Friendships During High School May Result In Better Mental Health As Adults

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Forming close friendships during high school is ultimately more beneficial in the long run than having an adoring posse, a new study reports.

Researchers at the University of Virginia found that high-quality friendships formed during teenage years are better for an adult’s mental health. Rachel Narr, lead author on the study, said,

Our research found that the quality of friendships during adolescence may directly predict aspects of long-term mental and emotional health.

Narr explained, “High school students with higher-quality best friendships tended to improve in several aspects of mental health over time, while teens who were popular among their peers during high school may be more prone to social anxiety later in life.”

The study involved 169 teens and young adults whom researchers followed for 10 years, from the time the participants were 15 to 25 years old. Almost 60% of them were white and 29% were black. The median family income was from $40,000 to $60,000, UPI reports.

The participants answered questions on their friendships each year, along with items regarding anxiety and depression. The participants’ close friends were likewise interviewed for the study.

The researchers classified some of the friendships to be high-quality, in that the friends were emotionally attached to each other, were supportive and displayed honesty towards one another.

The teenagers who formed close bonds at the age of 15 turned out to be less socially anxious, had better self-esteem and appeared to have fewer symptoms of depression at the age of 25, compared to the other participants.

On the other hand, the teens who were considered popular by their high school peers grew up to be more socially anxious as young adults.

Joseph Allen, co-author on the study and professor of psychology, said, “Our study affirms that forming strong close friendships is likely one of the most critical pieces of the teenage social experience.” He added, “Being well-liked by a large group of people cannot take the place of forging deep, supportive friendships. And these experiences stay with us, over and above what happens later. As technology makes it increasingly easy to build a social network of superficial friends, focusing time and attention on cultivating close connections with a few individuals should be a priority.”

The study was published in Child Development.

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