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Jul 23, 2015 06:33 PM EDT

College Social Life May Predict Overall, Psychological Health At Midlife

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New research suggests that your social life in college could predict your well-being later in life.

Researchers at the University of Rochester the quantity of social interactions a person has at 20 -- and the quality of social relationships that person has at age 30 -c an benefit a person's overall and psychological health.

Previous studies have found that people with poor social connections have an increased risk for early mortality.

"In fact, having few social connections is equivalent to tobacco use, and [risk for early mortality] is higher than for those who drink excessive amounts of alcohol, or who suffer from obesity," Cheryl Carmichael, lead author of the study, said in a statement.

For the study, researchers contacted individuals who, as 20-year old college students in the 1970s, and again ten years later, participated in the Rochester-Interaction Record (RIR) study.  Of the 222 participants, Carmichael was able to follow up with 133 participants.

"Considering everything else that goes on in life over those 30 years -- marriage, raising a family, and building a career -- it is extraordinary that there appears to be a relationship between the kinds of interactions college students and young adults have and their emotional health later in life," said Carmichael, who is now an assistant professor of psychology at Brooklyn College.

Researchers were surprised to find that socially active 20 year olds did not necessarily become successful at having quality relationships at age 30, when quality social engagement appears to start having the greatest impact later in life.

The findings are detailed in the journal Psychology and Aging.

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