From the moment the first ape put his arm around another ape, human beings have evolved to be social animals. This doesn't mean relationships are always easy or rewarding. Constant squabbles with spouses, unruly children, intrusive in-laws, and manipulative parents are par for the course in most families. Troubled relationships do more than just make life difficult, though. They can also wreck your health.
1. Loneliness is a Killer
Whether you're surrounded by people but still feel isolated, or have retreated into a life of solitude, you need to know that loneliness kills. Lonely seniors are more likely to develop dementia, cancer, and life-threatening illnesses. Even if you're young and healthy, loneliness put you at risk by depleting your immune system, tearing away at your mental health, and increasing your vulnerability to chronic pain.
2. The Right Relationship Can Stabilize Mental Health
Anxiety is a leading source of disability, and its effects aren't limited to your emotional well-being. Chronic anxiety can undermine cardiovascular health, render you more vulnerable to communicable diseases, and even lead to premature death. According to one recent study, healthy romantic relationships can help people who struggle with anxiety move into tranquility and health.
3. Stress Destroys Your Health
You already know that stress can wreck your health. But even if you're a dyed-in-the-wool introvert, isolation stresses your body and mind. Struggling with chronic fighting or manipulative loved ones? Troubled relationships are a leading cause of stress. Even when you're away from the relationship itself, you may spend endless time ruminating over it, steadily upping your stress level and wrecking your health.
4. Want to Live Longer? Get Married
Research consistently shows that married people live longer. The effect is especially pronounced among men. Though researchers aren't certain why marriage is so good for health, it may be that it alleviates loneliness and offers a sense of purpose. And at least one study suggests that married people are more likely to detect signs of cancer and life-threatening illnesses, suggesting that a spouse nagging you about your health might actually be a good thing.
5. Healthy Relationships Help You Survive Health Issues
When you're struggling with a life-threatening illness, it's easy to lose hope—especially if the treatment is almost as bad as the illness, as if often the case with chemotherapy for cancer. Those with health relationships, though, may have a bit of extra determination to pull through. A recent study suggests that people diagnosed with cancer are more likely to survive if they're married, so focus on improving this most important of relationships. Your survival may depend on it.