OSLO, Sept. 16 (Xinhua) -- A fresh study by Norwegian researchers showed that unpopular children have a slightly higher risk of getting infections in kindergarten, the newspaper Aftenposten reported on Monday.
Vidar Sandsaunet Ulset, a researcher at the Department of Psychology of the University of Oslo, has together with his colleagues studied 579 children, aged two to six years, for three years.
They wanted to find out if children's health is affected by how popular they are among other children and discovered that the most popular children have fewer infections.
"This can say something about how social inequality affects health, and that it starts early in life. Many studies have shown that this is the case for adults," Sandsaunet Ulset told the newspaper.
"Man is a herd animal, and individuals who are ostracized by the herd react biologically in special ways. Their body is preparing to be attacked and injured, and at the same time its defense against bacteria and viruses is getting weaker," he added.
During the research, the children were asked to imagine that they would go out and ride a bus and asked who in the children's group they could imagine to be with. They picked out photographs of the selected ones and placed them with themselves on a board over the bus.
The number of infections the children received was further mapped through their parents' questionnaire, and researchers found an increasing number of infections with declining popularity.
The infections that were recorded were common colds, as well as infections of the eye, ear, neck, lungs and stomach.
"There are very small contexts we find, and there are many explanations for why children get infections. The degree of popularity among children is only a very small part of this," said Sandsaunet Ulset.
Even though unpopular children get more infections, they do not become unpopular for being very ill, the researcher emphasized.
"Nevertheless, this points in the same direction as large amounts of research showing that social relationships are important for health, and it may indicate how important it is for all children to be included in kindergarten. Perhaps the development of social inequalities in health starts as early as in early childhood," Sandsaunet Ulset told Aftenposten.