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Eur J Public Health. 2012 Jun;22(3):378-83. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckr045. Epub 2011 Apr 15.

Childhood friendships and adult health: findings from the Aberdeen Children of the 1950s Cohort study.

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Centre for Health Equity Studies, Stockholm University/Karolinska Institutet, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden.



Social relations are known to influence morbidity and mortality but few have studied this association from a life-course perspective specifically targeting the importance of social relations in childhood for adult health. In childhood, a key aspect of children's relationships is the number of friendships a child has in the school class, i.e. friendship quantity. The overall aim of this study was to examine the association between childhood friendships and adult self-rated health.


Data from a longitudinal study of children born in Aberdeen, Scotland, between 1950 and 1956 was used. Information on friendship quantity (1964) was derived from sociometric nominations among classmates and defined as mutual choices. The health outcome was based on self-ratings derived from a questionnaire in 2001-03. The study included various childhood and adult circumstances as possible explanatory factors. The analysis was based on ordinal logistic regression, producing odds ratios (nā€‰=ā€‰5814).


The results demonstrated a gradient in women's self-rated health according to the number of friendships in the school class. A number of circumstances in childhood and adulthood were partial explanations. For men, only those without friends reported poorer self-rated health in adulthood. This finding was explained by adult socioeconomic status.


It is concluded that childhood friendships are linked to health disparities in middle age, underlining the importance of such relationships and the need for a life-course perspective on health that integrates a variety of mechanisms as they interact across life.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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