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Health Benefits of Social Bonds

Whether or not you celebrated Valentine’s Day or Galentine’s Day, there is one thing that we can all celebrate this month: relationships. As human beings, relationships are essential for our overall wellbeing and survival. According to Harvard Health Publishing, social connections not only give us pleasure, they also influence our long-term health in ways every bit as powerful as adequate sleep, a good diet and not smoking. Conversely, a lack of social ties is associated with depression and later life cognitive decline, as well as increased mortality. During this season of love, make sure to celebrate all the healthy relationships in your life; they might just save your life! Here are some other ways relationships can be good for your health:

1. Longer life

Everyone has their own personalities and desires when it comes to relationships. Even if you enjoy being alone, it is important to have at least one good friend to provide support during the good and bad times. Research has shown that having healthy social relationships makes a bigger impact on avoiding early death than taking blood pressure medication or being exposed to air pollution. Committing to a life partner can add 3 years to life expectancy, and studies found that people with strong social relationships are 50% less likely to die prematurely.

2. Improved health

The support from social relationships has noticeable benefits to your mental and physical health. Healthy relationships set the tone for an overall healthy lifestyle. If you surround yourself with people who eat healthy, exercise, don’t smoke, etc., you’re more likely to follow that healthy behavior.2 Not only that, college students who reported having strong relationships were half as likely to catch a common cold when exposed to the virus, while an AARP study with older adults found that loneliness is a significant predictor of poor health.3 Healthy habits spread through our social networks, so it is important to surround yourself with people who encourage you to live a healthy lifestyle.

3. Reduced stress

Did you know that being married or in a committed, romantic relationship can alter your hormones in a way that reduces stress? Being in a relationship is linked to less production of cortisol, a stress hormone.2 Having someone help ease the burden of stress by communicating and providing emotional support is important to your health. While marriage and some relationships can be stressful, it can make it easier for people to handle other outside stressors in their lives.

4. Faster healing

If you recently went through a surgery or sickness, it’s helpful to have someone there to take care of you. Whether they remind you to take your medicine or make you chicken noodle soup, having a partner helps take your mind off the pain and helps you recover faster. According to Northwestern medicine, married people who have undergone heart surgery are three times more likely to survive the first three months after surgery than single patients. Married patients also feel more confident about their ability to handle post-surgery pain and were less nervous about the surgery in general.2 Emotional support is very important when going through a major health change, so don’t be afraid to lean on loved ones.

1 Harvard Health Publishing. The health benefits of strong relationships. Retrieved February 06, 2018, from opens in a new window
2 Northwestern Medicine (2015, October 09). Five Benefits of Healthy Relationships
3 Kreitzer, M. (n.d.). Why Personal Relationships Are Important. Retrieved February 08, 2018, from opens in a new window