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Popularity in 20s Boosts Lifelong Health

Update Date: Jul 23, 2015 08:52 PM EDT

Being popular in college could mean better physical health in middle age, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Rochester found that being popular in your twenties can significantly benefit health in later life. Previous research revealed that people with poor social connections were significantly more likely to die early.

"In fact 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," lead author Cheryl Carmichael, who conducted the research as a PhD candidate in psychology at the University of Rochester, said in a news release.

Carmichael and her team believe that frequent social interactions at age 20 benefits health because it helps people discover themselves.

"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," said Carmichael.

"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," she said.

"It would be interesting to see if beneficial social activity during college years and early on in adulthood continues to have an effect, in terms of longevity, mortality, and other specific health outcomes as these participants get older," Carmichael concluded. "I would absolutely love to keep following these people."

The findings are published in the journal Psychology and Aging.

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