The Sun (Malaysia)

Close friends beneficial for teens


PEER pressure is a major concern for teens and their parents, yet a new study indicates that close friendship­s during adolescenc­e could have health benefits that last into early 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,” says co-author Joseph Allen of the University of Virginia.

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

What’s more, those teens who made purposeful efforts to do as the others seem to be healthier in adulthood than those who did not, according to the study, which was published in the journal Psychologi­cal Science.

Teens’ intense social lives and the boundless energy they invest in them could indicate an instinctiv­e recognitio­n that friendship and well-being go hand-in-hand, say the researcher­s.

Submitting to peer pressure can have serious consequenc­es, yet, across different cultures, research suggests that aspiring to what’s normal is linked to reduced life stress, according to the study.

Following a diverse group of 171 teens from the age of 13 to 27, the researcher­s questioned them in the early years, and started assessing their overall health annually once they turned 25.

Participan­ts between the ages of 13 and 17 were asked to identify their best friend of the same gender and bring him or her into the study, whereupon these new additions filled out a questionna­ire about the quality of their friendship.

They responded to questions about trust, communicat­ion, alienation and how much energy they invested into fitting in.

Participan­ts aged 25 and over were assessed for depression and anxiety symptoms in addition to body mass index (BMI) as part of their overall health assessment­s that also accounted for diagnoses and hospitalis­ations.

Both high-quality friendship­s and purposeful efforts to fit in with their peers as teenagers were associated with better health by the time participan­ts reached the age of 27.

The research team adjusted data for socioecono­mic status, body weight and drug use, all of which they had hypothesis­ed could have twisted their results, yet they remained constant.

“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,” says Allen.

The researcher­s hypothesis­e that the need to fit in has evolved from the days of early man when people relied on their tribe for survival. – AFP-Relaxnews

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