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02-26 Adolescent friendships are important for health

Adolescent friendships are important for health

“… And these children
that you spit on
as they try to change their worlds
are immune to your consultations.
They’re quite aware
of what they’re going through…”
― David Bowie

Bowie put it best. We know teens are convinced parents just don’t understand and live in a bubble of extremes; but what is not as renowned is that adolescent friendships are actually good for teen health.

Health benefits of friends

Almost 120 years of research on social relationships and the same truths continue to sharpen in the scientific scope:

  • The lack of social relationships increases the odds of untimely death by 50 percent
  • Mortality accelerates by 91 percent among the socially isolated; exceeding risk factors like smoking, obesity and physical inactivity

A new study has delved into the known interplay between relationships and health at a young age, instead of the traditional studies of those in old age. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences surveyed 14,000 Americans from early adolescence to seniors and found significant health deficits correlated with the number and quality of relationships.

Social isolation in adolescence increased inflammation risk levels on par with physical inactivity.

In a previous article exploring what teens may better understand about themselves than parents, the science of legitimate genetic harmonies with chosen friends was highlighted.

“Although the mechanism for such selection is unquantifiable scientifically, it would appear instincts lead friends to bond with those mirrored functional kinship and complimentary immunities. These similar genes – equal to those of fourth cousins – seem to be evolving more rapidly than other genes.”

It may be true strong bonds in the formative years may increase longevity and have a genetic pull that can aid in a young humans survival of the fittest – but the wrong group of friends most certainly can nullify any such benefits.

Birds of a feather

Dena Kemmet, of North Dakota State University’s Consumer and Family Sciences department gave insight into negative teen friendships.

“’Birds of a feather flock together’ still applies – teens tend to gravitate toward friends whose interest and involvement in problem behaviors parallels their own. Because of a strong desire to fit in with their friends, teens often behave in ways that they believe will lead to greater peer acceptance rather than responding to actual pressure from peers to engage in specific behaviors.”

It’s also been proven that toxic friendships can cause stress, depression, anxiety and heart problems – aside from any other danger toxic friends are getting into.

From buddies, to clique, to crew: someone to talk to

The tween years from 10-12 are the solidifying stages of influential buddies. Junior high kicks off mercurial cliques as adolescents experiment with niches. High school obligations begin to define crews of friends who work together and support each other academically, in sports or in shared goals.

In good or bad bonds, what teens are yearning for is empathy, connection and social support. Often friends provide acceptance and a reprieve outside of an adolescent’s home – a safe space to escape not even a sibling can fill.

Sovereign Health of Rancho San Diego uses cognitive behavioral therapy, solution-focused therapy and group therapies among others for teens with mental illness or addiction troubles. Our residential treatment offers teens a haven away from sometimes smothering social pressures so they can come up for air, recalibrate their perspective and recover. Call our 24/7 helpline for details on our unique approach to rehabilitation.

About the author

Sovereign Health Group staff writer Kristin Currin is a mindful spirit swimming in metaphysical pools with faith as her compass. Her cover: a 30s-something Cinderella breadwinner of an all-sport blended family. Her repertoire includes writing poetry, lifestyle articles and TV news; editing, radio production and on-camera reporting. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author at

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