Researchers found that the quality of friendships in adolescence leads to healthier states of mind in young adulthood. Evidently, high school friendships directly predict emotional and mental health in the long run.
High School Friendships
If it sometimes seems as though people who were very close with their high school peers seem happier, a new study by researchers from the University of Virginia shows that there may be some truth to that.
According to the study published in the journal Child Development, people who had good quality friendships in their middle adolescent years tend to have healthier mental and emotional states. Specifically, those individuals exhibited increased self-worth and decreased signs of anxiety and depression.
Researchers followed 169 individuals for 10 years from their adolescence to young adulthood. This covers the time from when the participants were 15 up until they were 25 years old. Among the participants, 58 percent were Caucasian, 29 percent were African American, and 8 percent were of mixed race. All of them had a median family income between $40,000 and $59,999.
Each year during the duration of the study, the participants were assessed regarding their friendships, as well as feelings of anxiety, symptoms of depression, social acceptance, and self-worth. Their close peers were also assessed and interviewed.
Friendship And Popularity
What researchers found was that the individuals who prioritized close relationships with peers during their middle adolescent years (age 15) had high self-worth, lower social anxiety, and fewer symptoms of depression. On the other hand, those who were more popular at that age showed higher levels of social anxiety as young adults.
Though the mental health effects of close friendships and popularity become more apparent in the long run when the individuals are already young adults, they do not particularly show any short-term mental health effects and changes.
Because of the results of the study, researchers believe that perhaps the reason for the healthy mental and emotional states among individuals who had close friendships in their middle adolescence is that, the positive experience they had with their close peers during an important developmental age allowed them to have positive feelings about themselves.
What's more, close friendships may lead the individuals to expect and encourage more supportive, positive experiences in the future. As such, researchers believe that having close friendships in middle adolescence is a critical part of the adolescent social experience.
"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," said Joseph Allen, Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia and coauthor of the study.