The answer appears to be ‘yes’ according to a study by Narr et al. (2017). They find that:
Close friendship strength in midadolescence predicted relative increases in self-worth and decreases in anxiety and depressive symptoms by early adulthood. Affiliation preference by the broader peer group, in contrast, predicted higher social anxiety by early adulthood. Results are interpreted as suggesting that adolescents who prioritize forming close friendships are better situated to manage key social developmental tasks going forward than adolescents who prioritize attaining preference with many others in their peer milieu.
In short, cultivating close friendships are a way towards less anxiety and more social support. Attempts to be ‘popular’ by increasing the likelihood of more but weaker friendship and pursing friendships for the sake of social status is bad for mental health as the quest for social status is likely to produce anxiety. A press release for the article can be found here.
- Narr, R. K., Allen, J. P., Tan, J. S. and Loeb, E. L. (2017), Close Friendship Strength and Broader Peer Group Desirability as Differential Predictors of Adult Mental Health. Child Dev. doi:10.1111/cdev.12905