According to a study, people who were social butterflies in their 20s will be happier overall later in their lives than people who were college wallflowers.
The 30-year study was done at the University of Rochester for the Psychology and Aging journal, and it showed those with a high volume of interactions at the age of 20 had better qualities of life later on.
Cheryl Carmichael, who began the research as a psychology PhD candidate at the University of Rochester, 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.
Based on her research, Carmichael believes having a greater number of and more diverse interactions at age 20 will give you a better understanding of who you are.
It's often around this age that we meet people from diverse backgrounds, with opinions and values that are different from our own, and we learn how to best manage those differences.
The study conversely found having many social interactions at age 30 -- instead of fewer stronger relationships -- did not necessarily help with well-being later on.
In other words, in your 30s, meaningful engagements with fewer people is more beneficial later in life than a large amount of shallower engagements.
The study began with 222 college students in their 20s in the 1970s. Then 10 years later, Carmichael followed up with 133 of the participants to collect more data.
During the 10 years between the start of the study and her follow-up, Carmichael had the participants keep notebooks to track their daily social interactions. In the diaries, participants rated how intimate, pleasant and satisfying any interactions they had over 10 minutes were.
The researchers then contacted the participants at age 50 and asked them to fill out online surveys about their current qualities of life.
Carmichael, who is now an assistant psychology professor at Brooklyn College, said,
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.
Carmichael hopes to continue her study and find out whether or not this greater well-being has an effect on mortality.