Healthy relationships are key to your overall wellness. Research shows that social relationships affect not only your mental health, but physical health too — with both short-term and long-term effects.
The key is that the relationship is a positive one – where it’s with a spouse, significant other, family, friends or in the community, such as a religious institution.
“Healthy relationships or social ties have been shown to improve health and increase longevity,” says Dr. Sharon Wasserstrom, Lifestyle Medicine specialist at UCF Health. “To maximize your health, try to have a variety of healthy relationships — spouse, friends, family and even co-workers. When relationships are stressful, counseling can be helpful. But if stress in a relationship is long-term, it can have a negative effect on your health.”
Dr. Wasserstrom says both relationship quality and quantity matter. Better quality relationships give emotional support which affects mental health, healthy behaviors, physical health and mortality risk. The more healthy relationships you have (quantity), the better your social support will be.
How do relationships help?
- They promote health behaviors − When you are happy, you are more likely to take preventative and corrective measures to improve your health. In addition, if your partner is making healthy lifestyle changes, you are more likely to make those changes as well.
- They improve mental health − Positive relationships decrease the impact of stress, increase your sense of purpose and provide inspiration for better personal control.
- They actually help your biology- Positive relationships improve your immune, endocrine and cardiovascular functions, leading to less wear and tear on the body.
To build healthy relationships, seek out people with similar interests, values and experiences. Online meet-up groups are a great way to meet people with similar interests. The more healthy relationships you have, the better your health will be!