Healthy teenage friendships portend good health later

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New York, Sep 1 (IANS) Having close, supportive relationships in adolescence and “following the herd” may lower the risk of stress-related health problems in adulthood, says a new study.

Researchers said efforts to conform to peer norms were actually linked to higher quality health in adulthood.

“The 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,” said lead researcher Joseph P. Allen from the University of Virginia.

“In this study, it was a robust predictor of increased long-term physical health quality,” he added.

The intense adolescent focus on forming and maintaining peer relationships may well result from an instinctive recognition that these relationships are linked to well being.

Peer relationships provide some of the most emotionally intense experiences in adolescents’ lives, and conformity to peer norms often occurs even when it brings significant costs to the individual, the researchers said.

“Cross-cultural research has found that an approach to social interactions that emphasises placing the desires of one’s peers ahead of one’s own goals – much as adolescents do when they conform to peer norms – is linked to reduced life stress,” they noted.

The researchers recruited a diverse group of 171 seventh and eighth-graders and followed them from ages 13 through 27 years old.

Participants’ health quality was then assessed annually at ages 25, 26, and 27 years old with questions about their overall health, anxiety and depression symptoms, and body mass index.

Results indicated that both high quality close friendships and a drive to fit in with peers in adolescence were associated with better health at age 27.

The study was published in the Psychological Science journal.

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