14 Aug 2017

Do Strong Relationships Make You Healthier?

Changing your relationship status on Facebook used to be a big deal. People agonized about going from “single” to “in a relationship”. Or from “in a relationship” to the infamous “it’s complicated.” And despite the fact that most people now use this feature with the utmost irony, the fact remains.

We spend a lot of time thinking about how to define the relationships in our lives. It doesn't matter if they are romantic, platonic or familial. What we don’t consider is the fact that all these relationships may be helping us to live healthier lives.

Isolation & Associates

Many medical professionals believe that social connections have real health benefits. In part, that's because recent research has shown that a lack of social connection can be bad for you.  

When it comes to heart disease, the risks of isolation can be equal to those of obesity and smoking. It can also affect your ability to recover.  Patients who live alone after a heart attack have twice the morality risk of patients who don’t live alone.

Isolation and other psychological factors like depression and stress can have physical manifestations: 

  • They can increase blood pressure and trigger your body’s “fight or flight” responses
  • They can decrease blood flow
  • They can increase the likelihood of blood clots
  • They can increase the risk of abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias)

What’s The Antidote?

Strong relationships are the most natural antidote to social isolation. Your friends and family give you a sense of belonging. They help you through difficult times and are there to celebrate the good times.  There are other kinds of social connection. Your relationships at work or at school can boost your confidence. They can also amplify your sense of accomplishment when you achieve your goals.

These benefits contribute to great mental health. In addition, they help reduce cardiac risk through behavioral influence.  Friends get together to exercise. Spouses take time to cook with each other’s nutritional needs in mind. And parents keep an eye on how much sugar their kids are consuming.

In each instance the emotional connections drive the risk reducing behaviors and can help you live a healthier life.

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