The relationships in your life may have more affect on your health than you think, but a new study advises that its the relationships you can’t choose that might bear the most effect. The study finds that the quality of your relationship with your family likely has the most bearing on your health, especially as you get older; perhaps even more special than your significant other.
Specifically, the study says that people who feel more support from their extended family are less likely to suffer from chronic illness. Thus, inversely, those who feel the least support tend to be at higher risk for chronic illness.
The study analyzed data collected from roughly 3,000 people between the years 1995 and 2014. It may be important to note that the average age of these people was 45 years during the first round of data collection. Over the study period of 19 years, those involved with the study were asked to rate the quality of their familial and romantic partner interactions on three separate occasions. These responses were then compared against the total number of chronic conditions observed: as mild as a headache to as serious as stroke.
Distilling the responses to these questions, the study essentially found that extended family relation strain is highly associated with a higher number of chronic conditions as well as poor health. On the other hand, the study did not find any association between troubled spousal relations and health conditions.
Lead study author Sarah Woods explains, “Adults are waiting longer to marry, if they marry at all. And they may be less likely to be married to that same person for the rest of their lifespan. But you have your family for all your life.”
As a matter of fact, Woods says, most of the people involved with this study had living parents and/or siblings. If the fluctuations of the interactions are negative, overall, family-based stress could be a major factor on a person as they ages.
The UT Southwestern Medical Center assistant professor of family and community medicine goes on to say, “Family relationships are long and emotionally intense. These are people you are connected to forever. If you are sensitive to emotional stress, then being bathed in that stress would over time wear and tear on your body.”