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Relationships and Health: The Connection Defined

Scientists have long researched the connection between relationships and health. The majority of related studies conclude what many already understand experientially: love is good for you.

Relationship and Health Connection: A Good Marriage Is Good For the Heart

Researchers at the University of Rochester found that bypass patients in happy marriages had substantially higher survival rates than their single or unhappily married counterparts. Perhaps most notable in the study, women in unhappy relationships were far less likely to survive than men in unhappy relationships. Other studies have made similar findings: women only reap the health benefits of marriage if that relationship is a happy, healthy one.

Why does marriage help post-bypass survival? It’s likely the social support. You have someone encouraging you to make healthier lifestyle choices, and you’re likely motivated to “live for” the one you’re committed to.

Relationship and Health Connection: Marriage Makes You Fat — But So Does Divorce

Love can be a weighty issue. Some studies have found that living with (or marrying) a man increases a woman’s risk of being overweight. The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health found that their single female test subjects gained an average of 11 pounds in ten years, while women with partners gained 15.

Researchers from Ohio State confirmed popular opinion that marriage isn’t waistline-friendly. Interestingly, they found that while women tend to gain more than men post-wedding, men are likely to gain more post-divorce. (Note that both men and women gain in both instances.) So if marriage and divorce lead to weight gain, maybe it’s best to marry wisely and skip the second round of piling on the pounds.

Relationship and Health Connection: Love [Lost] Hurts

Love can hurt, physically. Young love has been connected with depressive systems, bad relationships with poor mental health, and relationship anxiety with sleeplessness. The emotional pain of breaking up or being rejected triggers the same regions of the brain that physical pain does.

And don’t drink alone. One study found that living solo increases an individual’s risk of alcohol-related mortality.

Relationship and Health Connection: Having a Best Friend Lowers Stress Levels

Romantic relationships aren’t the only ones to come with a special set of health benefits. People who have someone they call a “best friend” have been found to have lower levels of cortisone, the stress hormone. Just spending quality time in the presence of that loved one will do your body (and mental health) good.

Relationship and Health Connection: Marriage Is Good For Physical and Mental Health

Those “smug marrieds” know they have something good. On average, marriage lengthens your life. In fact, monogamy is a life-extender, with those having numerous partners being at risk of an earlier death.

Marriage benefits men physically — likely because of the positive impact their partners have on their lifestyles — and women mentally, “due to the greater emphasis on the importance of the relationship.”

Young lovers and newlyweds aren’t necessarily reaping the benefits of life-long commitment. Like a fine wine, marriage and its health benefits get better with time.


A happy marriage is good for the heart

Relationships increase women’s risk of being overweight

BOTH marriage and divorce lead to weight gain

Breakups hurt

Love hurts, physically; Benefits of marriage get better with time

Ongoing conflict affects long-term health

Living alone increases alcoholism risk

Best friends reduce stress

Marriage is good for physical and mental health