Strong adolescent friendships have a huge impact on mental health through adulthood
Where would we be without our besties? Some of our most treasured friendships are the with those who have been around the longest. With those who know us the best. And according to new research, those are precisely the type of friendships that benefit teenagers well into adulthood.
A study published in Child Development earlier this week suggests that the bonds teenagers forge in adolescence can positively impact their mental health for years. Which makes sense, considering time spent with our best friends is always therapeutic.
The study followed 169 people for 10 years, starting when they were 15 years old. During the study, participants were asked to bring in their closest friends for one-on-one interviews.
“[They were asked] how much trust there is, how good communication is and how alienated they feel in the relationship,” Rachel Narr, the lead author on the study and a doctoral student in psychology at the University of Virginia, told NPR.
During each year of the study, participants also filled out questionnaires to assess anxiety levels, depression, and self-worth. Narr says throughout the study, she could easily see the positive effect of strong friendships.
“These teens tend to be open with one another about difficult topics, and they’re more engaged with one another and helping the other person and connecting with the other person,” she says.
As the participants aged, those with close relationships with their friends into adulthood showed less symptoms of depression and anxiety than those who did not have a strong emotional bond with friends. Their self-worth had improved by the time they were 25, too.
“It surprised me how much better they were doing,” Narr says.
It doesn’t surprise us, though. Our friends help shape who we are — having someone you know you can rely on and trust with your innermost feelings is so beneficial. It’s not an easy thing to be vulnerable with other people. Especially as a teenager, when everything is so raw and emotions are magnified.
Finding another human being you can open up to at such a crucial age can help build the foundation for future supportive, healthy relationships as well, according to the study.
While there are always many underlying factors that contribute to anxiety, depression, and self-worth, it’s evident strong adolescent friendships play a meaningful part. That doesn’t mean the relationship teens have with mom and dad isn’t just as influential, of course, but they really do benefit from being close with their friends.
Let’s raise a glass to all the besties who have been with us since the days of boy bands, braces, and prank-calling crushes. Cheers!