33 Social Rejection and Health

Based on Research by Michael L.M. Murphy, Ph.D.. Psychology Science Minute written by Kyle Peicora, M.S.

Do you remember the pain of being rejected, not having a date, a close friends in adolescence?  Could those experiences actually affect our physical health later in life?

Researchers led by Dr. Michael Murphy in Canada evaluated adolescent women who were predicted to be at risk for depression.  These teens spoke with the researchers every 6 months for 2.5 years, explaining their current life stressors such as rejection from peers and peer groups.  The researchers also drew the girl’s blood during the visits.  They found that when the teens had depressive symptoms or experienced a rejection, they had higher inflammatory chemicals in their blood.  The girls  who saw themselves as having a high social status, that is, being respected and having many friends, were more likely impacted than those who did not. These chemicals can later play a role in obesity, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

What  can parents do to mitigate these problems that can affect their teens’ later life?  Perhaps parents can help their teens develop and value their own unique talents, accept themselves, and de-emphasize “social climbing,” to reduce the teen’s stress and give them confidence.


Murphy, M.L.M., Slavich, G.M., Rohleder. N., and Miller, G.E. (2012). Targeted Rejection Triggers Differential Pro- and Anti-Inflammatory Gene Expression in Adolescents as a Function of Social Status.  Clinical Psychological Science, XX(X) 1–11

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