Childhood Friendships May Provide Health Benefits In Adulthood, Study Suggests

Devender Kundaliya

Time spent with best buddies in childhood may offer some health benefits that can carry over into adulthood, according to a new study whose findings were published in the journal Psychological Science. The study found that the boys who spent enough time with their best buddies in childhood tended to have healthy body mass index (BMI) and blood pressure (BP) in their early 30s.

According to Health Guidance, friendship is "the peculiar boon of heaven." It is an unconditional bond that most of us develop with our close friends. Childhood friendship is a more special relationship. It is difficult to forget childhood friends because of the love, sincerity, and affection that we get from them. Over the course of time, we move ahead in our lives, but the relationship that is developed with childhood friends is always special and difficult to find again in life.

In the past, some studies have analyzed the impact of adulthood friendships on the health and well-being of a person. These studies found that an individual with more close friends or social support is likely to have a lower risk of hypertension and heart diseases in his/her life.

In the new study, Jenny M. Cundiff, a psychological scientist at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, and Karen A. Matthews, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, decided to investigate whether the link between friendship and health is evident much earlier in life. According to the Association for Psychological Science, the two researchers analyzed the data from the Pittsburgh Youth Study, a longitudinal study that monitored the social lives of a group of boys between the ages of 6 and 16. In total, data of 267 boys were analyzed. Of them, about 56 percent were black and 41 percent were white. The parents of the participants informed researchers about the amount of time their children spent with close friends in their childhood and teenage years. Researchers analyzed the participants' personality traits, such as sociability, introversion, and hostility, as well as their general health, family, and environmental factors, etc., in their childhood and adulthood.

"These findings suggest that our early social lives may have a small protective influence on our physical health in adulthood, and it's not just our caregivers or financial circumstances, but also our friends who may be health protective," said Jenny Cundiff.

Both black and white boys were found to demonstrate a similar pattern of results over time.

In the study, researchers didn't include specific measures of cardiovascular function or physiological processes. According to them, expanding the scope of this study could help understand the pathways that associate childhood relationships with good health in adulthood.