WASHINGTON — Time spent with friends in childhood is associated with physical health in adulthood, according to the findings, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
The study data from a multi-decade study of men show that boys who spent more time with friends as children tended to have lower blood pressure and lower BMI as men in their early 30s.
“These findings suggest that our early social lives may have a small protective influence on our physical health in adulthood, and it’s not just our caregivers or financial circumstances, but also our friends who may be health protective,” Jenny Cundiff , says psychological scientist at Texas Tech University.
The fact that the association was evident over a 16-year span and was not explained by several other potential factors gives Cundiff confidence in the results.
“Although this wasn’t an experiment, it was a well-controlled longitudinal study in a racially diverse sample — so it provides a strong clue that being socially integrated early in life is good for our health independent of a number of other factors such as personality, weight in childhood, and the family’s social status in childhood,” she explains.
In many previous studies, researchers have found an association between adults’ social well-being — including their close relationships and sources of social support — and health-related outcomes including cardiovascular risk factors.
Cundiff and coauthor Karen Matthews of the University of Pittsburgh wondered whether this association might be evident much earlier in life, in childhood and adolescence.
To find out, the researchers examined data from the Pittsburgh Youth Study, a longitudinal study following cohorts of boys who were initially recruited to participate as students in Pittsburgh public schools.
Specifically, they examined data from 267 individuals in the youngest cohort, most of whom were Black (about 56%) or White (about 41%).
The participants’ parents reported how much time their children spent with their friends during an average week, beginning when the boys were about 6 years old and continuing through age 16.
The study also included data on various individual characteristics (e.g. extraversion and hostility in childhood; physical health in childhood and adulthood) and family and environmental factors (e.g., socioeconomic status in childhood, social integration in adulthood).
Analyses revealed that boys who spent more time with their friends in childhood and adolescence, as reported by their parents, had healthier blood pressure and body mass index at age 32.
This association held even after Cundiff and Matthews accounted for other potential influences, including physical health in childhood and social integration in adulthood.
New vaginal ring to prevent HIV, pregnancy is safe: Study
An experimental vaginal ring designed to prevent pregnancy and HIV looks safe, according to an early stage study.
The ring is designed to provide 90 days’ protection at a time. The dual-purpose ring releases the antiretroviral drug dapivirine and the contraceptive hormone levonorgestrel, said researchers led by Dr Sharon Achilles, of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
This small, 14-day trial involving 24 women who were not pregnant and not infected with HIV was the first clinical study of the ring.
“We are very encouraged by our findings in this first-in-human study of the dapivirine-levonorgestrel ring,” said Achilles, an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences.
Its use resulted in sufficient levels of levonorgestrel to prevent pregnancy and adequate levels of dapivirine to reduce risk of HIV infection, the researchers noted.
There were no safety concerns, and the ring was well-tolerated, according to the Microbicide Trials Network study.
The researchers have started a second Phase 1 trial in which women will use the ring for 90 days.
“With a second study underway, we are another step closer to potentially having an easy-to-use product that can provide safe and effective, long-acting protection against both HIV and unintended pregnancy,” Achilles said in a network news release.
The research was funded by the US National Institutes of Health and presented Wednesday (Oct 24) at an HIV prevention conference, in Madrid, Spain.
Research presented at meetings is usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.