Science says it’s perfectly OK to not have a huge gang of friends as an adult.

Image: Instagram.

Several catchphrases entered the zeitgeist in 2015, but none were more ubiquitous than #squad (or its sister, #squadgoals).

The inspiration: Taylor Swift and her ever-growing band of pals. If her Instagram posts from the past year are to be believed, the 26-year-old pop star managed to add a new A-list best friend to her gang every week (and then spend quality time with them on the regular).

I’m not sure about you, but just reading about her approach to friendship makes me want to hide under the nearest doona.

Being just one year older than Swifty, I have no idea how she does it. During uni I was constantly meeting people and gleefully investing time into new pals, but these days I’m just desperately trying to keep my existing friendships happy and healthy amid all the other responsibilities of grown-up life. Pop culture did not prepare me for this balancing act.

If any of this sounds similar to your experience of friendship as a 20- or 30- or 40-something, the findings of a new study from the University of North Carolina might offer some solace.

Watch: Aussie celebrities share their secret talents. (Post continues after video.)

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Researchers examined the impact social relationships have on our health risks and found friendship needs change quite significantly from one life stage to the next.

For people in adolescence and late adulthood, a larger social network was found to help prevent certain health issues.

Social isolation increased the risk of inflammation among teenagers, while integration reduced their risk of abdominal obesity. It’s even more serious for those in old age — social isolation was worse for their health than diabetes when it came to hypertension. (Post continues after gallery.)

Don’t go fretting over your Facebook friends list yet, though. The study found that throughout “middle adulthood”, the support or strain you get from your mates is more important than how many you have.

“The relationship between health and the degree to which people are integrated in large social networks is strongest at the beginning and at the end of life, and not so important in middle adulthood, when the quality, not the quantity, of social relationships matters,” study author Kathleen Mullan Harris explained in a press release.

In other words, if your friendship circle would be more aptly described as a #handful than a #squad, that doesn’t mean you’re doing adulthood wrong or missing out. You’re actually kind of nailing it. Well done, you.

How have your friendships changed over the years.

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