A new study conducted by the University of North Carolina has found that loneliness and the lack of social skills can take a toll on the health of teenagers as much as not having enough exercise, reported ABC News on Wednesday.
The researchers studied the level of social connection and involvement of some 14,000 teenagers with their families, peers, neighborhood and school, and found that those with poor social connections were more prone to abdominal obesity or inflammation.
"The reason that we chose these [health issues], all of them are highly related to important diseases that will come along later in life," noted Professor Kathleen Mullan Harris, a sociology professor at UNC "including heart disease, stroke, cancer, immune function."
The researchers also found that lonely teenagers appear to have poorer health status, regardless if they have enough physical exercise or not. This then led the researchers to conclude that teenagers' health can greatly benefit from establishing good social relations with other people, which aids in combatting stress in their daily lives.
"So when you're socially isolated you don't have that advantage and then your body feels sort of the full impact of the daily stressors that we confront every day," pointed Professor Mullan Harris.
According to Independent on Wednesday, the quantity of social network is more essential in adolescents and old age people, as opposed to those who are in their mid-adulthood - mid 30s to 50s - who value more the quality of relationships they have.
"What mattered more is what those ties mean in your life," said Professor Mullan Harris. "Do they provide support or strain? That's what tends to matter for health."
The professor also stressed the importance of increasing the people's awareness regarding the importance of social relationships in minimizing health risks.
"Do have a good and healthy diet, and exercise; but also try to have a good social life and connections with other people," said the study's first author, Yang Claire Yang. "Cultivate broad and somewhat deep, functional [relationships]. That's as important, if not more - and don't wait until you're old."