A new study from Sweden finds that troubled social interactions during adolescence can affect health many years into adulthood.
Few studies have traced the impact of not fitting in as a teen and adult health. In the new study, researchers found that the degree of perceived unpopularity during adolescence, and the amount of social isolation, influenced the development of metabolic syndrome in middle age.
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist or abnormal cholesterol levels — that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Researchers examined data on 800 participants over a 27-year period.
A retrospective determination of a student’s popularity in high school was determined from a review of teachers’ assessment of each student’s isolation and popularity among school peers at age 16 years. Additional information on health, health behaviors, achievement and social circumstances were collected from teacher interviews, school records, clinical measurements and self-administered questionnaires.
Metabolic syndrome was assessed by established clinical measures at age 43. Analysis revealed a dose-response relationship between peer problems in adolescence and metabolic syndrome in middle-age. Specifically, individuals who had peer issues during adolescence had an approximately 31 percent higher risk for metabolic syndrome at age 43.
The association remained significant after adjustment for health, health behaviors, school adjustment or family circumstances in adolescence, and for psychological distress, health behaviors or social circumstances in adulthood.
Researcher believe these findings show the importance of peer interaction, and suggest that greater attention should be paid to the creation of climates fostering positive relations among students.
Future research should be directed at investigating possible mechanisms whereby peer relations may contribute to later metabolic disturbances.
Source: Public Library of Science