Having good social connections at age 20 can lead to improved well-being later in life, a new study suggests.
Previous research has shown that people with poor social links are at increased risk for early death.
“In fact, having few social connections is equivalent to tobacco use, and [the risk is] higher than for those who drink excessive amounts of alcohol, or who suffer from obesity,” study author Cheryl Carmichael, who conducted the study while a doctoral candidate at the University of Rochester in New York, said in a university news release.
The study included 133 people who enrolled when they were 20-year-old college students in the 1970s. The participants kept track of their daily social interactions at ages 20 and 30. At age 50, they completed an online survey about the quality of their social lives and emotional well-being, including questions about loneliness and depression, and their relationships with close friends.
The findings showed that frequent social interactions at age 20 and good-quality relationships — defined as intimate and satisfying — at age 30 were associated with higher levels of well-being at age 50.
The study findings were published in a recent issue of the journal Psychology and Aging.
A high number of social interactions at age 20 are beneficial later in life because they help young adults determine who they are, the researchers said.
“It’s often around this age that we meet people from diverse backgrounds, with opinions and values that are different from our own, and we learn how to best manage those differences,” said Carmichael, now an assistant professor of psychology at Brooklyn College.
“Considering everything else that goes on in life over those 30 years — marriage, raising a family and building a career — it is extraordinary that there appears to be a relationship between the kinds of interactions college students and young adults have and their emotional health later in life,” she concluded.
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