If your teenager’s friendship circle seems to be a revolving door of new faces, don’t be too alarmed. A huge social network doesn’t just make their Facebook friend tally look awesome, it’s good for their long-term health.
Depending on your stage of life, quantity and quality of friends matter to your health in differing ways.
If your teenager rotates besties more frequently than their underwear, there’s no need to lament their lack of deep and meaningful, lasting friendships. According to a new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, encouraging adolescents to broaden their social circles is as important as getting them to eat their greens and partake in regular exercise.
The researchers discovered that teenagers and adults in their later years both benefited from a larger social network. Adolescents experiencing social isolation increased their risk of inflammation (which can lead to long-term health issues like heart disease, stroke and cancer) and reduced the likelihood of abdominal obesity. The older members of our community experienced similar results, although surprisingly, adults in middle life did not benefit as much from a massive list of mates.
For the ‘rents, the tables turned and the quality of social connections matter much more than quantity. Relationships deemed higher quality were those that provided significant emotional support and were the most likely to provide health benefits.
If you feel like you have plenty of friends or acquaintances but need help building long lasting connections, Wellness Expert and Kinesiologist Stephanie Einhorn believes approaching social events in a different light is a good place to start.
“When you’re attending a party or get together, rather than trying to have 15 different two-minute conversations with everyone there, try to enjoy and connect with one or two people at the party,” Stephanie recommends. “Listen to what they’re saying and try to block out other distractions around you, accept the fact you might not get to talk to everyone and that’s ok. This allows you to have real conversations and develop deeper connections.”
For young or elderly adults needing to broaden social networks, try volunteering at locations such as hospices, hospitals, charities or museums, joining a sporting club with members of varying age groups, take on a course and meet like-minded people or attend a community event put on by the local council. You never know who you might meet, but according to research your health will thank you regardless.
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