People have a natural need to be close to other persons. Strong social ties help us navigate our stressors, solve problems, and resolve challenges.
Throughout life, the amount and strength of relationships influence mental and physical health. Dozens of researches have shown that people are happier, have fewer health issues, and live longer with social support from relatives, friends, and society. In our mental health, relationships play a significant role. Being a part of a positive relationship is also increase pleasure and personal satisfaction, improve psychological well-being, and decrease the risk of suicide and death.
Low quantity or quality of social relationships can result in the following conditions:
- Development and progression of cardiovascular disease,
- Recurrent myocardial infarction,
- Autonomic dysregulation,
- High blood pressure,
- Cancer and delayed cancer recovery,
- Slower wound healing,
- Inflammatory biomarkers and impaired immune function
Besides, loneliness may have drastic effects on our well-being. Disrupted sleep patterns, elevated blood pressure, and increased stress hormones can be due to loneliness. It can affect our immune system and reduce our general sense of satisfaction.
How do relationships benefit health?
In general, social relationships work to affect well-being in three ways:
Lifestyle choices include a wide variety of health-influencing personal behaviors. Exercise, eating nutritionally balanced diets, and adherence to medical treatments are health-promoting habits. In contrast, smoking, excessive weight gain, substance abuse, and heavy alcohol intake appear to undermine health.
Social relations affect health behavior because they influence our health habits or “monitor” them. For example, a spouse can control, prevent, regulate, or encourage healthy behaviors in ways that promote a partner’s health.
Possible psychosocial pathways to describe how social relations promote our well-being are:
- Social support: emotionally maintaining qualities of relationships
- Personal control: refers to the beliefs of individuals that, through their actions, they can control their life outcomes. Social links may strengthen personal control.
- Symbolic meanings: For example, the concept of marriage and relationship with children may promote a greater sense of responsibility for staying healthy.
- Mental health: is the critical mechanism that works in harmony with each other’s mechanisms to shape physical health.
Immune, endocrine, and cardiovascular functions benefit from positive relationships with others. For example, Positive and constructive childhood environments foster the balanced development of regulatory systems with long-term implications for adult health, including the immune, metabolic, autonomic nervous systems, and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.
Here are a few advantages of healthy relationships:
Longer life: Experts attribute this effect to variables such as decreased tension or giving up bad behaviors to sustain the relationship.
Reduced stress: Being in a healthy relationship is associated with less stress hormone (cortisol).
Fewer colds: Studies have shown that individuals with stronger social ties are less likely to develop cold symptoms. It means there is a solid relationship between our immune system and our social networks.
Better healing: Emotional support can help a person heal from surgery or illness. For example, you have someone to remind you to take your medication.
Healthier behaviors: If your family, friends, or other loved ones inspire you to eat a balanced diet, exercise, not smoke, etc., you are likely to follow their recommendations.
Increased happiness: People with good social relationships show more joy than those who do not. Social ties provide a sense of identity and increased happiness that can be beneficial for our well-being.
Improved mental health: through decades of study, the relationship between social connectivity and positive mental health has been well-documented. There is less anxiety and less depressive symptoms identified by individuals with close social links.