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Why you can thank your teen BFF that you’re mentally healthy today


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Photo: Stocksy/Guille Faingold

It turns out reading magazines and belting out Mariah Carey with your best friend when you were a teen is doing wonders for your mental health now. According to a new study published in the journal Child Development, people who had one close BFF when they were 15 or 16 have a better sense of self-worth than those who had more (but not as close) friends. Your mom was right: Popularity isn’t what’s really important in life.

Researchers studied 169 people between the ages of 15 and 25 to see how social interactions as a teen impacted them later in life. They found that teens with a BFF are less likely to suffer from social anxiety and depression as an adult. Why does it have such a profound affect? It turns out that it isn’t really about who your best friend was—although she was probably awesome. It’s more about the skills needed to maintain a tight-knit friendship, something that benefits your mental health no matter how old you are.

“As technology makes it increasingly easy to build a social network of superficial friends, focusing time and attention on cultivating close connections with a few individuals should be a priority.”

Think about it: Whether you’re 15, 25, or 95, having someone to call when something absolutely life-changing happens (for better or for worse) just makes you happier. And just in case you’re wondering, the researchers see technology as something that can help or hurt building close friendships. “As technology makes it increasingly easy to build a social network of superficial friends, focusing time and attention on cultivating close connections with a few individuals should be a priority,” says Joseph Allen, the study’s co-author. In other words, if you’re using Snapchat to enhance an already-strong bond, that’s great. But if getting updates about your friends’ lives on Instagram makes you less likely to actually talk to them, it just won’t help you the same way.

The findings are essentially scientific proof that #squadgoals is more than a slogan—it’s a pretty smart health strategy. (And don’t forget, science says sisterhood is the secret to longevity, too!)

Here’s further proof friendship is good for your health. Plus, some great advice on how to deal with a BFF breakup. (Hey, it happens.)