College Social Life Predicts Quality of Life in Middle Age

College students laughing together on the grassAs parents and college students prepare for the transition back to school, they may focus their attention on college’s academic challenges. But parents who want their college students to lead fulfilling, healthy lives might want to encourage their children to develop strong friendships, too. A new study from the University of Rochester, published in Psychology and Aging, found that the quantity of social connections at age 20, and the quality of those relationships at age 30, predicted a person’s well-being at age 50.

Do College Friendships Mean a Lifetime of Well-being?

Strong social connections have long been tied to better health and wellness. Having limited social interaction has been shown to produce a higher mortality risk than either drinking or obesity, and one of the authors of the latest study suggests that having few friends can have an effect on mortality akin to that of smoking.

The timing of friendships matters, too. To explore how social relationships at 20 might affect long-term well-being, researchers recruited 133 participants. Each participant had originally participated in the Rochester Interaction Record (RIR) study. The study asked participants to track their social interactions at ages 20 and 30, ranking each interaction of more than 10 minutes according to how satisfying, pleasant, and intimate it was.

Researchers asked the participants, now 50 years old, to complete an online survey about their emotional well-being and the quality of their social lives. Participants also answered questions about depression, loneliness, and their relationships with their closest friends.

Those who reported a large number of social interactions at 20 were more likely to have high levels of well-being at 50. By 30, the number of social interactions did not affect midlife wellness, but the quality of those interactions did.

Early social interactions, the study’s author argues, serve as a foundation for future relationships. People in their twenties may begin meeting more diverse people in college, and those early social interactions may teach social skills that serve them well for the rest of their lives.


  1. College social life can predict well-being at midlife. (2015, July 23). Retrieved from

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  • Andrea

    August 4th, 2015 at 5:43 PM

    Is this an independent or dependent study on the interactions.

    Can we actually seperate out a persons inclinations to form strong bonds from their base personalities. Does the study also show an in depth review of highschool and those bonds.

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