How College Social Life Affects Well-Being Later
College can be one of the best times in your life. The open campus, tons social activities, and so many new people and ideas. Maybe there’s even an interesting class. It’s a world filled with possibilities.
For many of us those days are long gone. If you are currently attending college, you may want to make the most of it. Your well-being might just well depend on it.
That’s because new research from the University of Rochester found that the number of connections you make in your early social life can predict your overall psychological well-being later in life.
The study – published in Psychology and Aging – is the result of a 30 year study that began in the 1970s.
Researchers analyzed data from people who kept diaries of their social activites with others. Participants did this when they were 20 years old, and again 10 years later when they were in their 30s. If the interaction was for 10 minutes of longer they recorded how pleasant or satisfying each exchange was.
One of the benefits of the “diary” method is that it reduces the effect of memory error or bias. Information is collected in an ongoing basis which is more reliable than remembering details of events decades later. And the data used was part of one of the first studies to use such a method.
The people from the research are now in the their 50s. To determine the effect of their earlier lives on their current well-being they were asked to rate their current life satisfaction in a number of categories. Questions covered everything from depression, loneliness, and closeness of personal relationships.
Quantity vs. Quality
The research team found two important results after analyzing the data from the online surveys.
They discovered that your well-being later in life – and they’re talking 50s here if anyone was wondering – can be linked to the quantity of relationships in your 20s.
You didn’t read that wrong. The amount of social interactions that matter early in your social life. And it can predict your psychological well-being when you’re 50. It was found to have a larger impact than quality of your relationships at that age.
The quality of your social circles didn’t play a big factor until you were in your 30s. It was at this age where it was a factor in your well-being later. The researchers noted that quantity of social interactions in the 30s wasn’t predictive of well-being later when you were 50.
The authors also said that just because you had a lot of social interactions in college, it didn’t mean that you had quality relationships later in life. One didn’t necessarily lead to the other.
The authors of the study believe the findings show that “selection and optimization” are important when you’re younger and help with social adjustment and engagement in your later years.
The Theme of Social Importance
This is just another study that adds to the evidence that social connections – your relationships with the people around you – is important to brain health and well-being.
Your connectedness with friends, family, and colleagues are predictive of health factors at almost every stage of your life. Both mental and physical. People with very few social connections die earlier than people who drink, use tobacco, or suffer from obesity. That’s pretty incredible.
Taking a step back from the study, you have to wonder how well people really know themselves at age 20. You learn more than just book knowledge at college. The ideas you have about the world are changing as much as the ideas you hold about yourself.
You’re also finding out about the qualities you appreciate in other people. And every person you meet is a chance to discover who you are, what you like, and who you want to be.