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#ScienceSpeaks Do people in strong relationships live longer? Here’s the research finding

Good relationships are good for us…

And if that wasn’t obvious for ‘obvious’ reasons, let’s have scientific research explain the not-so-obvious benefit of having strong relationships!

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Several studies in relationship research have shown that strong and solid relationships have a direct correlation with longevity and better health. Researchers from Brigham Young University have found that people who have strong ties with family and have a number of close friendships are likely to live a lot longer than those who are lonely. The study has been published in an issue of PloS Medicine and has sparked a lot of interest in the area.

couple forming a heart with their hands

Image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License

“The idea that a lack of social relationships is a risk factor for death is still not widely recognized by health organizations and the public,” write PLoS Medicine editors in a summary of the study.

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The team at Brigham Young University analyzed 148 studies that aimed to examine the direct correlation between social ties and longevity. Together, these studies involved a whopping number of candidates (308,849 people) followed for about 7.5 years on an average. The results found were astounding. The numbers that came forth as a result of the assessment got many a jaws to drop in surprise. It was revealed that strong social connections tend to improve the odds of  survival by 50%!!! In fact, it was proved that the protective effect of strong social relationships undermines and overrides the effect of other early death-risk factors. As the team’s curiosity perked up, they charged ahead to discover if the influence of these strong bonds is powerful enough to shoot off the cumulative effect of age, gender or even health status. The results were, once again, astounding. It was found that strong interpersonal connections were as important as losing weight, in case one was obese or being active, if being sedentary impeded a healthy lifestyle.

“Obesity is a public health problem that needs to be addressed through effective social programs and policies, [and] the same is true of alcoholism and high blood pressure,” says study author Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, associate professor of psychology at Brigham Young University. “Our data make the case that strength of social relationships needs to be added to the list of public health concerns. ”

father playing with daughter

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Although the researchers have been unable to decipher if a certain type of relationship has an upper edge in the benefits so discovered, the team does assert that the importance of forging deeper and stronger connections should, in no way, be overlooked. The team declares, in no uncertain terms, the significance of solid relationships to increase one’s chances of living a longer life.

“Foster existing relationships,” she says. “Call a friend, get to know your neighbors, invite a colleague to lunch, or get together with family. Look for opportunities to get to know others and/or get involved in your community and support others [because] providing support is associated with greater protection for mortality than receiving support.”

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So, how does this support translate into a REAL chance of a longer life?


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According to a new study conducted in the area by Feeney and Collins, there are two mechanisms deployed by humans to thrive

1. Coping with adversity

2. Pursuing personal goals and opportunities for growth

Feeney and Collins assert that strong personal ties can help both. And before one has the time to pop the blatant ‘How’ question, Feeney and Collins back it up with proof:

They propose that there are eight ways that support from our relationships helps us to flourish. Here’s the list they outline:

“By improving 1) our emotional state; 2) our resilience and our acceptance of ourselves; 3) how we interpret situations or events, so that we see them as more manageable; 4) our motivation to overcome adversity and strive toward our goals; 5) the adaptiveness of our responses to specific situations, such as our coping strategies and our ability to learn from experience; 6) our relationships themselves in terms of closeness, trust, and feeling loved; 7) our physiological functioning, such as improved immune response; and 8) behaviors that comprise a healthier lifestyle, like better eating habits and self-care and less substance abuse.”

kids holding hands

Image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License

Dr. Gwendolyn Seidman agrees. She recognizes the effectiveness of a strong support in building one up to cope well with stressors and brave the adversity whilst also promoting a sense of responsibility and motivation to pursue higher goals. Connectivity with other people often helps in the transference of a sense of purpose and meaning in life. As such, mutual responsiveness promotes a symbiotic relationship that helps fuel positivity by buffering the stress and amplifying the joys.

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Robert Kaplan, PhD, a distinguished professor  of public health and medicine at the UCLA School of Public Health  in Los Angeles, also nods in agreement and asserts that Brigham Young’s team’s findings mirror much of the data published in his studies. He supports their hypothesis and avers,

“The  direct effect model argues that having people around can help you pull in healthy habits and behaviors.”

A welcome news in all ways, this one is definitely an eye-opener for all of us who are trapped in a relentless pursuit of materialist pleasures and frantic busy-ness.” A study conducted by psychiatrists Jacqueline Olds and Richard Schwartz have outlined the fatal effects of social isolation. Social alienation, as an inevitable consequence of contemporary society’s ‘busy’ life can cause multiple problems with physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

Therefore, it is about time we take an about turn and return to the relationships we have been overlooking for that ‘overtime’ which would bring in some extra wads of green. Let’s get this clear – those wads will not buy you time. But science says, healthy and happy relationships will!


Image source: Shutterstock

“Our social relationships are important not only to our quality of life, but also our longevity,” Julianne Holt-Lunstad concurs. “Throughout human history, we have relied on others for survival such as protection and  food, and despite modern advancements that may [help with] certain aspects of survival so that we can live more independently, it appears that our relationships nonetheless still impact odds of survival.”

Relationship o’clock now, eh?? :)

Featured image source: Shutterstock

Article Name
People in strong relationships live longer
If you are lucky to have forged solid ties with those around, you have news to cheer! You will live longer and you have your strong relationships to thank!
Sejal Parikh

Sejal Parikh

"I'm a hurricane of words but YOU can choose the damage I do to you..."