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Health Update: Do Social Relations Affect Our Health and Well-Being?

Health Update: Do Social Relations Affect Our Health and Well-Being?

Embraces, kisses, tender exchanges are a few of the fundamental components of our close relationships. Researchers are discovering that the connections that we possess with others can exhibit formidable effects on our health. Social networks, whether with romantic partners, family, friends or neighbors, can all have an impact on our well-being. Scientists suggest that solid social ties are associated with a longer life, while loneliness and social seclusion are linked to inferior health, depression, and an enhanced risk of early demise.

Studies have found that having an assortment of social relationships may assist in reducing stress and cardiac risks, give you a more positive outlook on life and could actually expand your ability to fight off pathogens. Additionally, physical contact can trigger the release of hormones and chemicals in the brain that make us feel good and subsequently may have other biological advantages.

A study done at Ohio State University indicated a strong link between marriage and good health. Married couples tend to live longer and have better heart health than unmarried couples. Studies have also found that when one spouse improves their behaviors, such as by exercising or eating healthier, the other spouse is likely to do so, too. But if a relationship isn’t thriving, it could have substantial negative health-related consequences.

In studies funded from the National Institute of Health, researchers found that behavior during conflict can affect wound healing and levels of stress hormones in the blood. The problematic topics, precipitating this conflict included money, in-laws, and communication. Couples with increased hostility toward each other showed enhanced negative changes, including surges in stress hormones and inflammation-related molecules, and an increased risk for weight problems. In another study from Michigan State University, scientists found that good marriage quality is linked to reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease, while bad marriage quality is tied to increased risk, particularly in women. This study also examined the associations between late-life sexuality and health, including whether sex among the very old is beneficial or risky to heart health. Data suggested that for many older people, sex quality and sex life are important factors to overall quality of life. In one analysis, researchers found that older women who reported having a satisfying sex life were at reduced risk for high blood pressure 5 years later. But the researchers also found that some older men, ages 57 to 85, were at increased risk for certain heart-related problems after 5 years if they reported having frequent sex.

Dr. Sheldon Cohen, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, has been examining the links between relationships and health for more than thirty years. In one study, his researchers exposed more than 200 healthy volunteers to the common cold virus and monitored them for a week in a controlled setting. They found that the more varied a person’s social network was, as well as the more types of connections they possessed, the less likely they were to develop a cold after exposure to the virus. They also noted that people with more types of connections also tend to have better health behaviors such as not smoking or drinking and added positive emotions.

The scientists have also been investigating whether merely believing you have strong social support may help safeguard a person against the damages of stress. Longstanding conflicts with others tend to be compelling stressors that can have a detrimental effect on health. However, the effects are cushioned by a person’s perceived social support. Those individuals who experience excessive levels of conflict and low levels of social support are much more prone to becoming ill when exposed to a virus. But those with high conflict and high levels of social support seem to be protected. Furthermore, hugging appeared to protect a person against stress. Those who described obtaining more frequent hugs were less apt to develop an infection after viral exposure.

It is evident that social ties can have diverse effects on our health and well-being. Generally, research proposes that the benefits of connections with others can prevail over any risks. Data supports that it is fundamentally healthy for people to attempt to belong to assorted groups, to volunteer in diverse ways, and be engaged with an organization or immersed in their neighborhood activities. Engagement with other individuals amidst a variety of situations can result in an exceptionally beneficial effect on health and happiness.