A lot of people bemoan the fact that Facebook means even the girl who helped you staple an overdue college essay counts as a ‘friend’ nowadays. However, science is on the side of stretching yourself thin when it comes to socialising, especially if you’re in your twenties.
A new study has explored the ramifications of the size of your circle of friends at certain ages on your health, and the results will make you want to set up a WhatsApp group to arrange a soonish meet-up. The University of Rochester study looked at 222 college students over a 30-year period and found those who had very few or no friends in their twenties and thirties had an increased risk of early mortality. In fact, their mortality rates were similar to that for smokers. And they tended to die earlier that people who drank too much or who struggled with obesity. Scary.
Those who managed to keep in good health shared similar friendship patterns. Having a lot of different friends in your twenties helped with teaching individuals about management, according to the lead author of the project Cheryl Carmichael. “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,” she said. The takeaway from this? Spread those let’s meet up for coffee wings whenever you meet someone who catches your interest.
But make sure you begin to build lasting relationships, as it’s the ones that are built for the long run that start to matter as you get older. When you reach your thirties, the best type of friendships for your health shifts. During this time of your life, quality friendships that are “intimate and satisfying” contribute to higher levels of wellbeing, as the study participants attested to in a series of diaries they kept over the decades.
While this is great news for people with a core and active group of gal pals, do make sure to reach out to people you haven’t seen in a while. In the world of constant messaging and statuses, an old school meet up may help someone who’s been feeling down and lonely of late.