Science Says That If You Want to Live Forever, Have Lots of Friends in Your 20s
Do you roll ten deep with your friends every time you go out to a bar or to dinner? While your large squad might be a pain in the ass for restaurant waitstaff, a new study released this week suggests that having an army of friends in your twenties a la Taylor Swift can actually improve your personal health and even help you live longer.
Friendship is a life-lengthening drug. The new research comes out of the University of Rochester and was published in Psychology and Aging. Of the study's 133 participants, those who had meaningful friendships in their 20s tended to kill it in the health and wellness departments later in life, while those without social connections ended up "at an increased risk for early mortality."
This particular revelation was actually 30 years in the making. Researchers followed up with participants from a 1970s study of 20-year-olds to see if the number of friendships they had in college influenced their success later on in life. Now all grown up and in their 50s, the participants penned online diary entries to give researchers some insight into how well they've fared.
"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," Cheryl Carmichael, the study's lead author, said in a press release. On the flip side, she said, "having few social connections is equivalent to tobacco use, and it's higher than for those who drink excessive amounts of alcohol or who suffer from obesity."
We already kind of knew this. Researchers previously reached this specific conclusion back in 2009, when an Australian study reported that there was a positive correlation between friendship and longer lifespans. The health benefits don't stop there, though, as other studies have linked friendship to such health benefits as improved brain function and overall lower stress levels.
This study is particularly interesting, though, because it specifically focuses on the connections we make as 20-year-olds, a time when many of us are still staying out late, hooking up with the wrong people and generally figuring out who we are. While this doesn't necessarily sound like a great recipe for a health and longevity casserole, this most recent study suggests that going through such a formative period with a loyal squad by your side might be.
So let's all use this research as an excuse to call up our college besties and plan some quality time this weekend — and if they try to flake on you, just tell them your life literally depends on it.