Popularity is not everything while in high school, although many vie for it. A new study says that being a part of a core group, while still in high school, may be beneficial for mental health in adulthood. Friendships developed during teen years have a strong bearing on an individual’s mental health, elaborated the researchers. They also found that teenagers who had quality friendships grew up to be happier adults, compared to those who were (only) popular among peers.
The findings came from a longitudinal study by researchers from the University of Virginia, who examined 169 racially, socioeconomically and ethnically diverse adolescents over a period of 10 years. They started looking into the teens’ behavior when they were 15-year-olds until they turned 25. The journal, Society for Research in Child Development, recently published the results of the study.
The researchers followed the respondents for 10 years assessing their mental health each year. They used parameters like anxiety, symptoms of depression, social acceptance, self-worth, etc. They also looked into their equation with friends and how it affected their mental health. Close friends of the study respondents were interviewed enquiring about their mutual bonding. The interviews helped the researchers rate the quality of friendship and the level of popularity enjoyed by the participants.
The researchers described high-quality friendships as those that involved attachment at a psychological level and intimate exchanges. While on the other hand, popularity was decided basis a peer’s inclination to hang out with the person.
Fulfilling relationships result in good mental health
The study found that teens who enjoyed fulfilling relationships enjoyed better mental health. A few tight BFFs meant lower social anxiety, heightened sense of self-worth and fewer symptoms of depression, the findings revealed. On the contrary, popular teens exhibited higher levels of social anxiety as adults.
The results proved that popularity was not as important as having close associates and friends. “Being well-liked by a large group of people cannot take the place of forging deep, supportive friendships,” quipped Joseph Allen, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. Friends are supportive, and provide an inner prop and a sense of belonging. The outcome of the study reiterates that friendships are pivotal to good long-term mental health.
Dealing with mental health conditions
Good mental health of an individual depends on myriad factors, and meaningful friendships or relationship is one of them. When a person has somebody in his/her life to share problems with, it acts like instant psychotherapy. Much of the inner turmoil dissipates merely by sharing it with a close confidante. This is what the above study highlights.
While close relationships and friendships can help people deal with anxiety and depression to a great extent, the more serious cases need medical attention. One should seek immediate help to deal with psychological problems, as leaving them untreated for a long period can prove to be debilitating.
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