How Do Close Relationships Lead to Longer Life?

Relationships really do matter. Research suggests that having a happy spouse leads to a longer marriage, and now study results show that it’s associated with a longer life, too. The study was published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

While recent research has shown that loneliness can play a role in early death, psychologists are also concerned with the mechanisms by which social relationships and close personal ties affect health. A special issue of American Psychologist, the flagship journal of the American Psychological Association, offers an overview of the science and makes the case for psychological scientists to work together to make close relationships a public health priority.

“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,” special issue editor Christine Dunkel Schetter, PhD, wrote in the introduction. “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.”

Articles focus on topics including how healthy relationships early in life affect physical and mental health in childhood and beyond; the role of intimate relationships in coronary heart disease; the need to focus on partners when treating someone with chronic disease; and the increasingly complex biological pathways involved linking relationships to health.

“The challenge remains to translate existing and future knowledge into interventions to improve social relationships for the benefit of physical and mental health,” wrote Dunkel Schetter, of the University of California, Los Angeles.

Exploring plausible explanations for these findings, researchers found that perceived partner support was not related to lower participant mortality. However, higher partner life satisfaction was related to more partner physical activity, which corresponded to higher participant physical activity, and lower participant mortality.

This research demonstrates that partner life satisfaction may have important consequences for health and longevity. Although the participants in this study were American, researchers believe the results are likely to apply to couples outside of the United States, as well.

Story Source:  American Psychological Association

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