Depending on who you ask, high school for some may have been a great time–for some others quite the opposite. However, whether you enjoyed high school or not, the types of friendships formed during those years can influence one’s mental health later in young adulthood, according to a recent study published in the journal Child Development.

According to Eureka Alert, the Global Source for Science News, researchers found that teens who prioritized close friendships at age 15 had lower self-anxiety, increased self-esteem, and showed fewer signs of depression by the time they reached age 25. On the other hand, young adults who were more popular among their peers during their high school years were found to have more levels of social anxiety, Eureka Alert reported.

“Our research found that the quality of friendships during adolescence may directly predict aspects of long-term mental and emotional health,” Rachel K. Narr, a Ph.D. candidate in clinical psychology at the University of Virginia, who led the study, said in a statement. “High school students with higher-quality best friendships tended to improve in several aspects of mental health over time, while teens who were popular among their peers during high school may be more prone to social anxiety later in life.”

To conduct the study, researchers examined a community sample of 169 adolescents over a 10 year period– from the time there were 15 up until they were 25. And during that time they were assessed annually. They were asked questions about who their closest friends were, reported on their friendships, participated in interviews and assessments about anxiety, social acceptance, and depression. Close friends of participants were also asked to report on their friendships and were interviewed as well.

By the study’s end, researchers concluded that having strong and intimate friendships during adolescence may help promote long-term mental health. They said this could be due to the fact that positive experiences with friends help bolster positive feelings about oneself during a stage of life when personal identity is being developed.

“Our study affirms that forming strong close friendships is likely one of the most critical pieces of the teenage social experience,” Joseph Allen, Hugh P. Kelly Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, who co-authored the study, said in a statement.  “Being well-liked by a large group of people cannot take the place of forging deep, supportive friendships. And these experiences stay with us, over and above what happens later.”

Featured Image via Flickr/Rainier Martin Ampongan