Feb. 12, 2024—Love makes the world go 'round, as the song goes. It's great to feel close and connected to others. But can these relationships also help you live a longer and healthier life?
The short and simple answer is yes, they can.
The power of relationships
Researchers have found strong evidence that good relationships:
- Lower your risk of death from many diseases.
- Reduce stress levels and help you respond to stress better.
- Increase healthy behaviors like regular physical activity, a good diet and routine checkups.
- Help you recover more quickly from illness and difficult times.
- Reduce your risk of depression, anxiety and suicide.
- Boost your sense of contentment and well-being.
Happily married people have lower death rates than single, divorced or widowed people. But you don't need to be married or living with a partner to reap health benefits, says the American Heart Association. Close friendships, in which people trust and confide in one another, also protect our physical and mental health. It's the stability and support in relationships that counts.
Whether it's marriage, friendship or something else, researchers say that a healthy relationship is key for better health.
Casual connections count
Humans are hard-wired to be social. Making an effort to talk with your mail carrier, grocery store cashier or neighbor still gives your mental health a lift, even if you don't end up forming a friendship. These casual connections help you:
- Strengthen your social skills.
- Feel a stronger sense of connection in your community.
- Combat feelings of loneliness.
Loneliness is a health risk, so it's important to learn how to cope with it in healthy ways. According to the American Psychiatric Association, a new poll reports that 30% of U.S. adults say they felt lonely at least once a week in 2023. And while 38% relieved their loneliness by contacting a friend or family member, 26% reported eating more than usual and 13% reported using drugs or alcohol.
Make it a priority to celebrate all the good relationships in your life. And try to forge new connections too.
- American Heart Association. "How a Happy Relationship Can Help Your Health." https://www.heart.org/en/news/2020/02/05/how-a-happy-relationship-can-help-your-health.
- American Heart Association. "If You Like Being Healthy, Should You Put a Ring on It?" https://www.heart.org/en/news/2023/09/21/if-you-like-being-healthy-should-you-put-a-ring-on-it.
- American Psychiatric Association. "New APA Poll: One in Three Americans Feels Lonely Every Week." https://www.psychiatry.org/News-room/News-Releases/New-APA-Poll-One-in-Three-Americans-Feels-Lonely-E.
- American Psychological Association. "The Science of Why Friendships Keep Us Healthy." https://www.apa.org/monitor/2023/06/cover-story-science-friendship.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "How Does Social Connectedness Affect Health?" https://www.cdc.gov/emotional-wellbeing/social-connectedness/affect-health.htm.