Having bad relationships with partners, friends and even work colleagues can be as bad for your health as SMOKING or obesity, study claims
- Researchers examined data on almost 7,700 women in Australia
- The association was so strong it is comparable to well-established risk factors
Having poor relationships with partners, friends and colleagues can be as bad for health as smoking and obesity, a study suggests.
Middle-aged women who fail to have ‘satisfying’ social connections are more likely to develop chronic health conditions in later life.
The association was so strong it is comparable to well-established risk factors including poor diet, physical inactivity, smoking and alcohol intake, the researchers said.
Activities that enhance personal relationships – such as arts and crafts groups, book clubs and coffee mornings – could help to ward off illness in later life.
Middle-aged women who fail to have ‘satisfying’ social connections are more likely to develop chronic health conditions in later life
Researchers examined data on almost 7,700 women in Australia, who were aged between 45 and 50 and free from 11 common long-term conditions when the study began in 1996.
They reported their satisfaction levels with their partners, family members, friends, work and social activities every three years, over a period of two decades.
Researchers tracked who went on to develop diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, osteoporosis, arthritis, cancer, depression and anxiety.
More than half (58 per cent) developed more than one of the conditions, according to the findings published in BMJ’s General Psychiatry journal.
Those who reported the lowest level of satisfaction with their social relationships had double the risk of developing multiple conditions compared with those who reported the highest levels.
Similar results were found in each different type of social relationship, suggesting all are important when it comes to later-life health.
Socioeconomic position, health behaviours, and menopausal status together explained less than one-fifth of the observed association, they said.
As such, it should be treated as a similar risk factor to other well-established unhealthy lifestyle factors, researchers from the University of Queensland, Brisbane, suggest.
They said the findings ‘have significant implications for chronic disease management and interventions,’ suggesting doctors should ask patients about their social relationships.
‘First, at the individual level, these implications may help counsel women regarding the benefits of starting or maintaining high quality and diverse social relationships throughout middle to early old age.
‘Second, at the community level, interventions focusing on social relationship satisfaction or quality may be particularly efficient in preventing the progression of chronic conditions.
‘Third, at the country and global levels, social connections (eg, social relationship satisfaction) should be considered a public health priority in chronic disease prevention and intervention.’