The impact of relationships on health

Relationships definitely affect health

It’s often said that humans are social animals. And as John Donne wrote “No man is an island…”

There are a few ways in which relationships affect your health

  • The people in our lives affect our behaviours
  • The people in our lives affect our moods
  • The people in our lives directly affect our biology

Relationships affect health behaviours

The people closest to us – and the people close to them – have a huge impact on what we eat, how much we exercise, and our attitudes to life. This is the effect of your broader social networks.

It’s easy to think of daily examples of this. If you live with someone who regularly buys and eats chocolate, you are more likely to eat chocolate. But it turns out that if your partner’s friends gain weight, you are more likely to gain weight too. And that’s without you ever coming into contact with those people.

Relationships affect mood

Negativity breeds negativity. If you socialise – or worth with – someone who has a negative outlook, guess what? That’s affecting your mood.

It’s been said that we are the average of the 5 people we spend most time with. Who do you spend your time with? Is it worth revising those relationships? Or downgrading one or two of them?

Is it worth seeking counseling to improve a relationship? Whether that counseling be with the person, or on your own to better enable you to deal with that relationship?

Relationships affect biology

Did you know that human tears have pheromones in them? And that other peoples’ pheromones – especially those of a loved-one – affect how you feel? And what you therefore do?

Caring for others in a positive way, protects your health. For example it’s been shown that having children at an older age protects your telomeres (telomeres are at the ends of your chromosomes, and the longer the better). And this is associated with slowing the ageing process.

Adults who have children live longer than those who do not.

Painful relationships

Some relationships literally increase your likelihood of physical pain. For instance, persistent lower back pain is more common in people who are unhappy at work.

How to improve your health through your relationships

  • Select friends carefully
  • Work on family relationships – use counseling
  • Move away from “toxic” relationships
  • Be mindful of the impact of others
  • Seek out those that make you feel good


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