WHY DO WE NEED RELATIONSHIPS?
Humans are social animals that depend on each other to survive. Researchers believe that people spend 80% of their time in the presence of others. This suggests that forming caring relationships with others is important. These relationships can be romantic but also include being close with family, friends and colleagues. Building positive relationships has been shown to make us happier, provide security and give meaning in our lives. However, recent evidence shows relationships may also directly improve health and increase life span.
DO RELATIONSHIPS IMPROVE HEALTH?
A number of studies across different countries show that people with more relationships have a much lower mortality rate (number of deaths per 1000 people). Supporting this, healthy relationships have been shown to reduce the risk of many medical conditions including diabetes, cancer and depression. For example, a group from Duke University in 2001 showed socially isolated people had a 2.4x increased risk of death from heart disease. On the other hand, loneliness has been shown to have dramatic negative effects on your health. It has been shown to increase depression, cause sleep disruptions and elevate our blood pressure (which increases risk of heart attack).
WHY DO RELATIONSHIPS IMPROVE HEALTH?
The exact reason why relationships improve health is currently unclear. Recent evidence suggests that stress is reduced in individuals with many relationships. Stress is thought to directly affect the function of many organs such as the brain and heart, causing a number of health problems.
HOW TO MAINTAIN HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS?
It is very important to maintain and create new social relationships to boost our mental and physical well-being. In order to do this, it is important to set time aside for family, friends and partners. When we are spending time with our loved ones we need to be present and be disconnected from other commitments. We should also listen to what others are saying and share your feelings openly. To make new connections, it is important we try new things regularly and meet new people.
Social isolation is becoming more common around the world. Especially in the COVID-19 pandemic, we are becoming more and more lonely. This could worsen the mental and physical health of millions of people. Even during this difficult time when we cannot meet others, we can write letters, send text messages or call our old friends or family members to strengthen our bonds. This could help make us happier and as an added bonus make us live longer!