Developing close friendships early in life may help children stay physically fit later in their adulthood, suggests new research.
“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,” said one of the researchers Joseph Allen from University of Virginia in the US.
“In this study, it was a robust predictor of increased long-term physical health quality,” Allen noted.
The findings indicate that adolescent relationship qualities may come to influence adult health through decreased levels of later anxiety and depressive symptoms.
The researchers recruited a diverse group of 171 seventh- and eighth-graders and followed them from ages 13 through 27 years old.
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.
Friends also provided information about how much participants’ focused on fitting in with their peers.
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 journal Psychological Science.