Giving Into Peer Pressure Predicts Adult Health
Since I was a child, I was told not to give in to peer pressure.
Now, research shows giving into peer pressure could have health benefits.
New research suggests that “following the pack” in adolescence has unexpected health benefits that carry into early adulthood.
The research revealed that forming and maintaining peer relationships in adolescence may be linked to overall well-being.
“These results indicate that remaining close to — as opposed to separating oneself — from the peer pack in adolescence has long-term implications for adult physical health,” says Allen, a researcher at the University of Virginia. “In this study, it was a robust predictor of increased long-term physical health quality.”
The study states that peer relationships are some of the “most intense experiences in adolescents’ lives” and the concept of placing the desires of one’s peers ahead of your own goals is linked to reduced life stress. Furthermore, Allen and his colleagues believe that “following the heard” lowers the risk of having stress related health problems in adulthood.
The test involved recruiting a diverse group of 171 seventh and eighth graders and monitoring them from the age of 13 to 27.
The participants nominated their closest same-gendered friend to be included in the study. The best friend filled out a questionnaire assessing:
- Quality of Friendship
- Degree of Trust
- Alienation in the relationship
- How much focus their friendship placed on “fitting in”
Then, each year, participants’ health quality was assessed at ages 25, 26 and 27 with questions involving their overall health, anxiety, depression symptoms and body mass index. Participants also listed any medical diagnoses and health problems that could affect the results.
The study concluded that very close, high quality friendships coupled with a “drive to fit in with peers” is associated with better health. The study also indicated that relationship qualities in adolescence influenced adult health with decreased levels of anxiety and depression.
“From a risk and prevention perspective, difficulty forming close relationships early in adolescence may now be considered a marker of risk for long-term health difficulties,” Allen explains.
What does the future hold? The study suggests social relationships in adolescence should be considered as a health risk indicator just like obesity and smoking.
Though this study emphasizes the benefits of peer pressure, it is important to remember that there is good peer pressure and bad peer pressure. Often, the people we associate with affect our decisions for years to come. Substance and drug abuse is influenced heavily by peer pressure. Who are you letting into your surroundings?
If you are in recovery, it’s important to understand how important it is to have a solid support system around you. Sometimes that means cutting those around you who influence you in a negative way. It might be difficult but sometimes that could be just what they need to get on the right path.
Four Easy Ways to Combat Negative Peer Pressure:
- Choose to spend time with positive role models.
Avoid people who influence destructive behavior. Being around the right people makes making the right choices significantly easier.
- Say “No” like you mean it. Be repetitive about it.
Don’t be hesitant to be firm in your position even if it means repeating the same answer over and over again. If you are entering a new lifestyle, it might be hard for those around you to take you seriously. Look at them straight in the eyes and say “No” with authority.
- Use the Buddy System.
If you going somewhere where you can be easily influenced by peer pressure, find someone who shares the same goals as you. It makes it easier to be held accountable. This can help prevent you from falling into peer pressure.
- Come up with an Alternative Suggestion.
It might be easier to come up with an alternative suggestion to something rather than flat out refusing. If a friend suggests something that goes against your goals, try to come up with an alternate option. For example, “I’m not into that anymore. Do you want to go to the movies Friday?”
Whatever you do, remember having a strong support system is the key to success in recovery. Remember to focus on positive peer pressure and combat the negative. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-777-9588.