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Having close relationships helps you live a longer life

A special issue of American Psychologist, a journal from the American Psychological Association, features a collection of articles which emphasize the health benefits of close relationships. The compilation of studies is an effort to convince scientists and psychologists to join forces and make it a priority to bring public awareness to the health advantages of close relationships.

The introduction to the special edition is written by editor Christine Dunkel Schetter, PhD.

“The articles in this special issue represent state-of-the-art work on the central issues in the study of close relationships and health. They draw from relationship science and health psychology, two areas of scientific inquiry with independent histories and distinct domains,” writes Schetter. “The goal of this special issue is to bridge the gap between these two specialties to improve the quality and usefulness of future research and practice.”

The article “Advancing Social Connection as a Public Health Priority in the United States” provides scientific evidence that feeling socially connected and participating in high-quality relationships are linked to a decreased risk of mortality. Despite these facts, the authors say that government agencies, healthcare providers, and health care funders have not made social connection a public health priority. The experts point out that frequent and intense loneliness affects as many as 43 percent of adults in the U.S. over age 60.

Another report included in the special issue is “Interpersonal Mechanisms Linking Close Relationships to Health.” This article gives insight into how interpersonal processes influence health and disease. The authors say relationships can help protect against the negative effects of stress. Relationships can also foster positive emotions, personal growth and health-promoting behaviors.

Another article,”Childhood Close Family Relationships and Health,” investigates how relationships early in life can affect one’s health over the course of a lifetime. According to the authors, comforting relationships during childhood are linked to better physical health from infancy to adulthood. In addition, the impact of difficult health issues can be greatly reduced by close family relationships.

Other articles included in the special issue of the journal examine topics such as the increasingly complex biological pathways involved linking relationships to health. One article, for example, explains that a happy marriage can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, while a stressful relationship can increase this risk.

Dunkel Schetter says that the “challenge remains to translate existing and future knowledge into interventions to improve social relationships for the benefit of physical and mental health.”

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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