Study: High-School Popularity Doesn't Guarantee Happiness

Better to have a few close friends, researchers say
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 23, 2017 7:18 PM CDT
Study: High-School Popularity Doesn't Guarantee Happiness
New study finds having a few close friends in high school, rather than being popular, is better for long-term happiness.   (Getty Images/LeoPatrizi)

Good news, nerds: Popularity in high school isn't predictive of long-term happiness, at least according to a study published Monday in Child Development. ABC News reports the study followed 169 high-school students for a decade starting when they were 15 years old. Researchers found high-schoolers with a few good, close friends were ultimately happier at 25 than those that were widely popular. "Youth with higher levels of attachment to their best friends appear to have better psychological health, psychosocial adjustment, and even a more adaptive stress response during adolescence," according to the study's authors. Or, as Huffington Post puts it: Teens will be better off if they have "a few tight BFFs."

The differences in happiness don't manifest until after high school, but the study found that by 25, youths who had a few close friendships as teens had better self-worth and fewer symptoms of depression, while youths who were widely popular in high school were more likely to have social anxiety, Psychology Today reports. "Being well-liked by a large group of people cannot take the place of forging deep, supportive friendships," co-author Joseph Allen says. He says it's an important lesson as social media becomes more and more central to teens' lives. Close friendships were defined as ones with psychological attachment and intimate exchanges. Popularity was determined by asking the teens' peers to rank which classmates they would most like to spend time with. (Another path to happiness: Spending time nude.)

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