Investing time in relationships brings real physical health benefits, research reveals

Investing time in relationships brings real physical health benefits, research reveals

Spending time with friends can often be undervalued or seen as an unproductive use of time. Yet, it plays a crucial role in our well-being across several levels. Far from being time wasted, these interactions are not only essential for emotional and mental health, but new research reveals they also offer significant physical health benefits.

The importance of investing time in building relationships is underscored by a body of research exploring the impact of interpersonal connections across different life stages.


Close Family Ties Can Buffer Long-Term Health Impacts in Children

In childhood, Chen, Brody, and Miller (2017) highlight how close family relationships can buffer the effects of adversity on long-term health. The study highlighted that close, positive family relationships during childhood can reduce stress-related biological impacts (i.e., inflammation) and shape health behaviors across a lifetime​​.


Increasing Positive Social Interactions in Adolescents Increases Well-Being

The study "Determinants of Positive Mental Health in Adolescents" by Ahrnberg et al. (2021) emphasizes the significant correlation between strong social relationships and enhanced well-being in adolescents. Key determinants like self-esteem, hope, kindness, and social inclusion were closely linked to positive mental health. Among these, self-esteem stood out as the most influential factor, deeply impacting the psychological development of adolescents. This is largely attributed to the feedback and interactions adolescents receive from their social environments, shaping their self-perception and belief in their own abilities. The study highlights when adolescents feel valued and supported in their social settings, they develop higher self-esteem, which in turn bolsters their mental resilience and contributes to overall psychological well-being.


Quality of Social Ties Outweighs Quantity for Health and Well-Being

For older adults, Asante and Karikari (2022) examined the relationship between social connectedness and perceived social support with the physical and mental health of older adults. They discovered that the quality of social ties, particularly affective support, is more crucial to health and well-being than the mere existence or frequency of social interactions. This finding highlights the importance of emotional and empathetic components of social relationships in promoting better health outcomes in older adults​​.


Positive Social Relationships Reduce Chronic Conditions and Symptoms Across the Lifespan

The studies by Chen, Brody, and Miller (2017), Asante and Karikari (2022), Ahrnberg et al. (2021), and Gaspar et al. (2020) collectively reveal several observed physical health benefits related to close family relationships and social connections. These benefits include a reduction in the number of chronic conditions in adulthood, a decrease in physical health symptoms such as aches during adolescence, and lower levels of physiological risk (allostatic load) in adulthood. Additionally, these studies suggest that social connectedness and perceived social support, especially in older adults, contribute significantly to actually maintaining good physical health.

This suggests that the quality and depth of our relationships across the lifespan, not just their presence, have profound impacts on our physical and mental health. From early childhood through older adulthood, nurturing positive, supportive, and emotionally rich relationships is essential for health and well-being. This body of research argues compellingly for the value of investing time and energy in building and maintaining healthy relationships across all stages of life. ​


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Chen, E., Brody, G. H., & Miller, G. E. (2017). Childhood Close Family Relationships and Health. American Psychologist, 72(6), 555–566.

Asante, S., & Karikari, G. (2022). Social Relationships and the Health of Older Adults: An Examination of Social Connectedness and Perceived Social Support. Journal of Ageing and Longevity, 2, 49–62.

Ahrnberg, H., Appelqvist-Schmidlechner, K., Mustonen, P., Fröjd, S., & Aktan-Collan, K. (2021). Determinants of Positive Mental Health in Adolescents–A Cross-Sectional Study on Relationships between Positive Mental Health, Self-Esteem, Character Strengths and Social Inclusion. International Journal of Mental Health Promotion, 23(3). DOI: 10.32604/IJMHP.2021.016408

Gaspar, T., Tomé, G., Cerqueira, A., Guedes, F. B., Raimundo, M., & Gaspar de Matos, M. (2020). Mental Health and Interpersonal Relationships Impact in Psychological and Physical Symptoms During Adolescence. 10. doi:10.33776/erebea.v10i0.4957.



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