High School Friendships Can Actually Affect Your Health: Here's How

by Julia Guerra

I was quite the social butterfly in high school between choir, theater, and the many sports teams I joined and dropped out of. But while I was friendly with the majority of my classmates, I only hung around with an intimate group outside of school. Popular teens and television shows make having a large group of friends seem glamorous, but apparently my sticking with a smaller clique could have major benefits in the long run. According to new research, high school friendships affect your health, and studies show the smaller your social circle, the better.

The study was led by Rachel K. Narr, a PhD candidate in clinical psychology at the University of Virginia, and focused on a diverse group of 169 adolescents whose ages ranged between 15 and 25. Participants were assessed over the course of 10 years, and were asked a series of questions that focused on friendships and where they stood on feelings of anxiety, social acceptance, and self-worth.

The results show that those who sustained one best friend over the years led healthier, happier lives as opposed to those focused on climbing the social ladder.

My hunch was that close friendships compared to broader friendship groups and popularity may not function the same way,” Narr states. Being successful in one is not the same as being successful in the other.

The idea is to have a few “high-quality friendships.”

Popularity looks cool from an outside perspective, but when you dub anyone and everyone you meet a “friend,” it's most likely that these so-called bonds will amount to nothing more than an acquaintance.

Study authors defined high-quality friendships as “close friendships with as degree of attachment and support, and those that allow for intimate exchanges.”

The key to becoming a best friend is to spend ample time with someone, to ask them questions and make memories with them. When your social circle exceeds more than a handful of friends, you more than likely spread yourself thin, sharing only pieces, rather than your whole self with others.

Unfortunately, in this digital age, artificial friendship trumps real-life bonds.

Do it for the likes, right?

Millennials grew up in a different age than generations before them. Our parents' friendships required a little more effort like making plans and talking on the phone. But whether we're comfortable admitting to it or not, friendship is defined by social media standards these days.

Things like keeping tabs on each other's Instagram account and dolling out digital compliments can measure how close you are in real life. We've become so concerned with artificial approval and branding ourselves that making a genuine connection with another human offline can be challenging, and that's a problem that will only get worse if this behavior should persist.

However, there's nothing wrong with having a lot of friends if that's what you prefer.

Keep in mind that this is just one study, and while there may be others backing up this claim, there are a ton of popular people in the world who are just as healthy and happy as someone who prefers rolling with a smaller social circle.

For example, I went to school with a group of girls who joined forces to create one enormous clique (and this was way before TSwift's squad was even a thing). Maybe I was a skeptic because in my experience three or four female friendships at a time was pushing it, but according to Facebook, this group of eleven plus have stayed friends since freshmen year of high school.

I guess the moral of the story parallels with that of the prevailing girl scout mantra. Make new friends, but keep the old, because your ride-or-dies are the ones who help you grow.