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Childhood friendships may carry health benefits into adulthood

Raghu Kshitiz

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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.

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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).

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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.

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Bisexual relationship can break your heart, literally

Gorkha Post

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WASHINGTON — Turns out, for men, being bisexual can be injurious to health.

According to a study conducted by the New York University, bisexual men have a higher risk for heart disease compared with heterosexual men across several modifiable risk factors.

“Our findings highlight the impact of sexual orientation, specifically sexual identity, on the cardiovascular health of men and suggest clinicians and public health practitioners should develop tailored screening and prevention to reduce heart disease risk in bisexual men,” said lead author Billy Caceres.

Little is known about the impact of sexual orientation on heart disease risk in men, despite the fact that gay and bisexual men may be at a higher risk based on modifiable factors like tobacco use and poor mental health.

In this study, the researchers examined differences in modifiable risk factors for heart disease and heart disease diagnoses in men of different sexual orientations.

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Risk factors measured included mental distress; health behaviors such as tobacco use, binge drinking, diet, and exercise; and biological risk factors such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and cholesterol.

Participants who reported having angina, coronary heart disease, heart failure, heart attack, or stroke were considered as having a diagnosis of heart disease.

The researchers analysed responses from 7,731 men ages 20 to 59. Differences were analysed across four groups based on their sexual identities: gay men, bisexual men, heterosexual men who have sex with men, and heterosexual men.

The researchers found no differences in heart disease diagnoses based on sexual orientation, but the risk for heart disease was more complicated. Gay men, heterosexual men, and heterosexual men who have sex with men had similar heart disease risk.

Gay men reported lower binge drinking compared with heterosexual men, but otherwise few differences in health behaviors were noted.

Bisexual men, however, had higher rates of several risk factors for heart disease relative to heterosexual men: mental distress, obesity, elevated blood pressure, and three different measures of diabetes (medication use, medical history, and average glycosylated hemoglobin level).

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“Poor mental health is a recognized risk factor for the development of heart disease,” said Caceres. “Clinicians should be educated about sexual minority health and should routinely screen bisexual men for mental distress as a risk factor for heart disease.

This is particularly important as healthcare organizations increasingly include sexual orientation as part of demographic questionnaires in electronic health records.”

The researchers also noted that the study underscores the importance of disaggregating analyses for gay and bisexual participants to ascertain differences in health outcomes between these subgroups.

The study findings appear in the journal LGBT Health.

ANI

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