A US study shows the more social interactions a person has at 20 and the quality of their social relationships at age 30 can predict their wellbeing in later life.
Researcher Cheryl Carmichael of the University of Rochester said the 30-year longitudinal Rochester-Interaction Record (RIR) study had started in the 1970s with 20-year-old college students and their social relationships.
“They help us to figure out who we are,” said Carmichael, who is now an assistant professor of psychology at Brooklyn College.
“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.
But the study also showed that having a high number of social interactions at age 30 had no psychosocial benefits later on.
If 30-year-olds reported having quality relationships, they also reported high levels of well-being in midlife.
Twenty years since their last diary entry, Carmichael asked the now 50-year olds to fill out an online survey about the quality of their social lives and emotional well-being at midlife.
They were asked about loneliness and depression, as well as the quality of their relationships with close friends.
“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 said.
“It would be interesting to see if beneficial social activity during college years and early on in adulthood continues to have an effect, in terms of longevity, mortality, and other specific health outcomes as these participants get older.”
The findings were published in the online journal Psychology and Aging of the American Psychological Association.