While social relationships are associated with reduced depression and anxiety, strong social relationships are also a significant resource for dealing with adverse life experiences. Supportive friends act as a buffer to the potentially life-long mental health problems these events can cause by providing sources of emotional, informational and practical support. For many people, community resources may be more effective than personal resources, as they are sometimes more accessible and provide more long-lasting support.

Relationships as a Resource

Using Great Britain’s National Child Development Study, researchers decided to investigate the direction of the association between social resources and mental health by comparing childhood data to adulthood data. Due to the unpredictability of adverse life experiences and spontaneous remission of many mental health symptoms, they found that early sociability was a stronger predictor of later mental health than mental health itself. 

They also found that having a broad network of social ties and access to multiple community resources were more effective for people with high stress levels than fewer social resources that they accessed more frequently. The emphasis was on options and availability, rather than quality. Whether or not young adults recognize them as resources, they have the widest group of acquaintances than any other age group. 

Building Social Resources

According to an American Time Use Survey, young adults spend the most time per day socializing on average of any age group. In young adulthood, people begin to form more meaningful relationships, but they also tend to be more open to new experiences and meeting new people.  William Rawlins, a professor at Ohio University explains, “the expectations people have in relationships remain the same, but the circumstances under which they’re accomplished changed. I’ve listened to someone as young as 14 and someone as old as 100 talk about close friends and they always describe them as “somebody to talk to, someone to depend on, and someone to enjoy. 

The nature of relationships changes a lot during young adulthood.  The older you get, the more selective you begin to be. “The real bittersweet aspect is young adulthood begins with all this time for friendship, and friendship just having this exuberant, profound importance for figuring out who you are and what’s next,” Rawlins says. “And you find at the end of young adulthood, now you don’t have time for the very people who helped you make all these decisions.”

Barriers to Social Resources

While young adults may have access to more social resources, they often underestimate their value. Friend groups also change a lot during this transitional period as people move around and explore different things. For people with social anxiety, being surrounded by possible “social resources” may feel more overwhelming or they may question how they might be perceived if they did reach out like they’ve been encouraged to do. Social demands in young adulthood are lower than in other age groups as people are encouraged to be independent. 

Ironically, it is easier to be independent when you have a variety of “social resources” to reach out to in moments where you need to depend on someone else. Many young adults don’t quite understand that true independence is healthy interdependence.

blueFire Pulsar Can Help

BlueFire PulsaR is a coeducational wilderness therapy program for young adults ages 18-28. This program addresses emotional, social, and behavioral problems in struggling young adults. Adventure therapy, wilderness ventures, equine therapy, academic opportunities and “family spark” are used to help students open up and look at their life. From there they are able to experience growth and adopt healthy self-management skills. This program is dedicated to helping students regain a better sense of the world around them while addressing their emotions and needs head on. We can help your family today.

Contact us at 208-269-7407.


Previous reading
Fears About Dropping out of College
Next reading
Chronic Stress in College Students May Lead to Burnout