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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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Sexual assault, harassment linked to worse physical and mental health among women

Gorkha Post

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Experiences of sexual harassment and sexual assault could have a significant impact on the physical and mental health of midlife women, a new study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has suggested.

Sexual harassment and sexual assault are highly prevalent experiences among women, according to the study published in JAMA Internal Medicine,also will be presented at the North American Menopause Society meeting on Friday, Oct 5 2018 in San Diego, CA.

“When it comes to sexual harassment or sexual assault, our study shows that lived experiences may have a serious impact on women’s health, both mental and physical,” said Rebecca Thurston, PhD, professor of psychiatry, Pitt School of Medicine and the study’s first and senior author.

In the study, Thurston and her colleagues analysed the association between a history of sexual assault or workplace verbal or physical sexual harassment and physical and mental health parameters such as blood pressure, sleep, mood and anxiety.

“This is an issue that needs to be tackled with urgency not just in terms of treatment but in terms of prevention,” she added.

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The analysis was conducted among a group of 304 midlife women between the ages of 40 and 60 who were originally recruited as part of a larger study on association between menopause and cardiovascular health.

In the study group, approximately one in five women reported being either sexually harassed or sexually assaulted. Women who were younger or more financially stressed were more likely to be harassed.

Importantly, the study found that assaulted women were almost three times more likely to have symptoms consistent with major depression and were more than two times more likely to have elevated anxiety. Sexual harassment was associated with higher prevalence of hypertension.

Both sexual harassment and sexual assault were associated with a two-fold higher likelihood of poor sleep consistent with clinical insomnia.

Agencies

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