Tell us about your high school years and we'll reveal some surprising insights to your current mental health

What happens in high school friendships can affect the rest of your life.

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  • Most everyone wants to be in the popular group of kids in high school. If you weren't among the popular kids, then you look forward to some sort of satisfaction of seeing how the popular kids turned out at your twenty-year reunion, right?

  • Turns out, you most likely don't have to wait to find out.

  • A recent study by researchers at the University of Virginia links your mental health in adulthood to the type of friendships you had as a teenager.

  • The study

  • Published in the journal Child Development, researchers at the University of Virginia "examined 169 racially, ethnically and socioeconomically diverse adolescents over a period of 10 years, from the time they were 15 until they were 25." Participants were evaluated each year to check in on friendships and current mental health status. They were asked questions pertaining to who their friends were, and looked into potential issues such as "anxiety, social acceptance, self worth and symptoms of depression."

  • Participants' close friends were also interviewed, which is how they measured popularity and friendship quality.

  • The results

  • After following the participants for a decade, the results showed those who formed high-quality friendships as fifteen-year-olds, were in better states of well-being as twenty-five year-olds. Additionally, those with a few close friends "had lower social anxiety, increased sense of self-worth and fewer symptoms of depression."

  • Sisters Friends GIF - Sisters Friends Friendship - Discover & Share GIFs
    Sisters Friends GIF - Sisters Friends Friendship - Discover & Share GIFs / via Tenor
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  • Conversely, the more popular crowd back in high school, struggled with higher social anxiety levels into adulthood.

  • I Can't Help It That I'm Popular - Mean Girls GIF - MeanGirls CantHelpIt Fabulous - Discover & Share GIFs
    I Can't Help It That I'm Popular - Mean Girls GIF - MeanGirls CantHelpIt Fabulous - Discover & Share GIFs / via Tenor
  • Meaningful friendships are key

  • Joseph Allen, professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia stated, "Our study affirms that forming strong close friendships is likely one of the most critical pieces of the teenage social experience. Being well-liked by a large group of people cannot take the place of forging deep, supportive friendships. And these experiences stay with us, over and above what happens later."

  • Popularity is no substitute when it comes to friendship. Strong relationships with peers are not superficial, but deep emotional connections with people you can trust as you navigate tumultuous teen years. Forming these lasting relationships will benefit you throughout your life.

  • It's also important to note that forming close friendships with good people is vital. Find people with similar goals and value systems to be friends with. Parents, teach your children to seek friends who will help them make positive choices and who, in turn, they can also help along the way. Close friendships are important, but they must be with people who can have a positive impact on your life.

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Wendy is a regular contributor for and does media reviews. Website: for victims of sexual abuse. Blog: Twitter: @WendyJessen


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