Here’s How Your Relationships Affect Your Physical Health

You probably realize the impact your relationships have on your mental and emotional health. But, do you realize the impact they have on your physical health?

The negative impacts of a bad relationship

Portland State University Institute on Aging carried out a survey which revealed people who live with long-term conflict with family, loved ones, or friends are more likely to suffer from health problems. 

An additional study of British civil servants revealed that those with negative relationships were 34% more likely to develop serious health problems.

It makes sense. If you're constantly under stress or feeling negative about yourself and your life, you might make poor health choices.

The benefits of a good relationship

However, if you have strong, positive relationships and surround yourself with people who inspire you, you're more likely to have better physical health. 

Diet and exercise

Having friends and family who're committed to their own health can keep you on track. If your friends order healthy options at brunch, you’re more likely to choose nutritious food options, too. If your friends like to work out, you can make plans to hit the gym together. This way, you stay motivated and accountable.

Healthy relationships also help you make other healthy choices. For example, you’re less likely to over-consume alcohol, use drugs, or even use tobacco products when you have positive relationships.

Reduced depression

There are plenty of articles that explain how loneliness, whether you’re alone or in a bad relationship where you feel alone, contributes to depression. And while depression is technically a mental health issue, it can also have a severe impact on your physical well-being. For example, depression disrupts your sleep, which contributes to your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and fatigue-related accidents. 

Less stress

Stress also takes a physical toll on your body. It can cause painful muscle tension and can lead to unhealthy habits, such as drinking alcohol or using drugs and tobacco.

When you’re less stressed, your body produces less cortisol, the hormone responsible for your fight-or-flight response. When your body continuously produces cortisol, you end up fatigued and vulnerable to illness.

More rapid recovery

Researchers from Emory and Rutgers Universities completed a study that revealed people in happy, healthy relationships recovered from heart surgery quicker than other patients without strong relationships. The patients in healthy relationships also reported higher confidence in their ability to cope with post-surgical pain.

How to improve your relationships and health

All relationships, with family, friends, and loved ones, have their ups and downs. You can learn and practice conflict resolution techniques to keep the air clear.

While your family and partner love you, open and honest communication ensures they're aware of your needs. Clear conversations help you work together to keep your relationships positive and strong.

In some cases, the people in your life won’t meet you halfway to strengthen your relationships. Limit the time you spend with people who make you feel bad or have a negative influence on your life and well-being.

If you’re concerned about your health and how your relationships impact it, contact Dr. Padma Sripada at Columbia Internal Medicine.

Dr. Sripada offers comprehensive medical care and treatment to help you improve your physical, mental, and emotional health. She can also direct you to resources to help you address unhealthy relationships.

Visit our website here to schedule an appointment.

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