"These findings suggest that our early social lives may have a small protective influence on our
in adulthood," said co-author Jenny Cundiff of Texas Tech University in the US.
‘Boys who have a fun-filled childhood are at lower risk of developing hypertension and higher Body Mass Index (BMI).’
"It's not just our care-givers or financial circumstances, but also our friends
who may be health protective," added Cundiff.
For the study, published in the journal Psychological Science,
researchers examined a longitudinal study following cohorts of boys who were initially recruited to participate as students.
Specifically, they examined data from 267 individuals in the youngest cohort, most of whom were Black (about 56 per cent) or White (about 41 percent).
The participants' parents reported how much time their children spent with their friends during an average week, beginning when the boys were about six-years-old and continuing through age 16.
The study shows that boys who spent more time with friends as children tend to have lower blood pressure (BP)
and lower Body Mass Index (BMI)
as men in their early 30s.
This association was held even after the researchers accounted for other potential influences, including physical health in childhood, and social integration in adulthood.
The researchers noted that expanding the scope of measures used in future research could help to illuminate the pathways that link early peer relationships with physical health decades later.