How Relationships Influence Our Health

Relationships are an important part of life. We continually work to develop strong, healthy relationships with spouses, significant others, children, parents and friends. Maintaining good relationships requires time and effort, but the investment is worth it, especially when it comes to our health and well-being. In fact, happy, fulfilling relationships benefit us in a number of ways:

Support and encouragement – Whether we need someone to listen or offer encouragement, it’s important to have people in our lives we can trust to provide emotional and physical support when needed.

Opportunities to care and nurture – Caring for others makes us feel good and brings purpose to our lives. When we establish and maintain positive relationships with loved ones and friends, there are many opportunities to exercise care and nurturing.

Better health – Being in strong, positive relationships influences our health-related behaviors. For example, spouses, partners and other loved ones often encourage good health habits, such as eating right, exercising and visiting the doctor regularly. These habits result in improved health. Studies also show that happy relationships can relieve stress, which can contribute to heart disease and other chronic illnesses.

On the flip side, unhappy relationships can lead to health concerns, such as depression, obesity and high blood pressure. In some circumstances, people struggling with unfulfilling relationships can turn to substance abuse in an effort to cope.

Longevity – Those involved in positive relationships and people who have strong social connections are likely to live longer than individuals who are more isolated and alone. Some of the reasons stem from the support and encouragement derived from positive relationships and the influence loved ones have on helping people maintain healthy habits, as mentioned above.

While positive relationships promote good health and lead to a more fulfilling life, it’s important to understand that no relationship is perfect. If you are looking for ways to improve your relationships, consult your primary care doctor. He or she may have good advice and can likely direct you to helpful resources.

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