Social Life in College Benefits Health Later on

College-aged students should seek quantity over quality in social interactions, but the opposite advice should be taken by 30-year-olds.

College-aged students should seek quantity over quality in social interactions, but the opposite advice should be taken by 30-year-olds.

A new study has found that varied social interactions around age 20 may improve health, well-being, and longevity later in life. The quality of these social interactions, on the other hand, becomes more beneficial at age 30.

The 30-year prospective study, which was published in Psychology and Aging, examined individuals’ social lives at age 20 and 30 and then recorded the results of these behaviors at age 50.

Initially, the participants were 20-year-old college students in the 1970s. They were asked to keep a record of their daily social encounters that lasted at least 10 minutes, as well as rate the interactions for satisfaction and intimacy.

Social integration, friendship quality, loneliness, depression, and psychological well-being were measured at the end of the study through an online survey when the participants turned 50.

The results revealed that the quantity and quality of social interactions at age 20 and 30, respectively, can predict midlife psychosocial outcomes. While meaningful relationships were always beneficial, they were more so at age 30 than 20.

“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,” lead study author Cheryl Carmichael, an assistant professor of psychology at Brooklyn College, said in a press release.

Carmichael went so far as to say that poor social connections may be as harmful as tobacco use and has been shown to increase individuals’ risk for early mortality.