Being in a relationship, especially a satisfying one does not only give pleasure, it also plays a great role in our health. People in relationships have been shown to live more happily, have fewer health problems and even live longer. RALIAT YUSUF writes.
When it comes to living and staying healthy, being in a quality relationship matters. Contrary to belief or practice by some people who would rather not be in a relationship or have few or no social ties, such a lifestyle could lead to depression ,loneliness and even premature death.
One of the major benefit of being in a relationship is fewer mental health problems even though people may once in a while get on each other’s nerves. Overall, people in committed relationships experience significantly fewer mental health problems than those that are not in any relationship according to a study early this year which observed 1,621 people.
The study showed that those not in committed relationships that had more sexual partners also had more physical and mental health problems.
Compared with those in relationships, those not in any relationship at all have comparatively higher levels of depression, anxiety, mood disorders, adjustment problems, suicidal behavior and other forms of psychological distress.
The study also showed that men and women in relationships experience equal benefits in terms of mental health. However, the author acknowledged that mental health is likely both a consequence and cause of being coupled up — those with mental health issues are also less likely to be in a committed relationship in the �rst place.
While in some quotas it is believed that love hurts the reverse may be the case as love is said to actually helps numb pain. In the same study, it examined the relationship between pain relief, feelings of romantic love and activation of reward systems in the brain. Some partners who were in love were subjected to mild pains. On seeing the picture of their loved ones, it distracted them from the pain, but a picture of another person of equal attractiveness was not as helpful.
Images of their brains using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (FMRI) confirmed that while looking at pictures of their romantic partner, they experienced increased activity in reward-processing regions of the brain, and decreased activity in pain-processing regions.
It has also been found that those that are not in any relationship are more prone to psychological stress than those who are in a steady relationship. Relationship status can affect the production of cortisol, a stress hormone, during stressful events. Those with supportive partners experienced less strain and in turn, were better at tolerating relationship stresses. The researchers also suggested that partners who are satisfied with their relationship are in a better position to provide support when the other partner experiences stressful events.
A relationship expert and marriage counselor, Mrs Veronica Onyekwere explains: “it depends on how you look at it because it is not all or just about being in a relationship, satisfaction in any relationship be it marriage matters a lot”. For instance, when a lady is in a relationship that she is being battered from time to time by her boyfriend or in another instance marriage, one should expect problems from such association. It could lead to depression, sadness and poor state of health, she said.
Looking at it from another angle, apart from intimate relationship or marriage, when you have more social ties with people it goes a long way in improving quality of life, she notes. It relieves harmful levels of stress, which is capable of damaging the heart’s arteries, insulin regulation and the immune system in general.
Relationship can help extend one’s life span. A census data have shown that those that are not in a relationship had a higher probability of early death than those who were in one. They had a significantly increased risk of death, even after adjusting to other socio-economic factors. Those in relationships have more support when things are difficult because there is always someone to talk to when there is a problem or to calm them down when things are stressful. All these put together can increase life span.
Studies have shown that when we look at the face of someone that we are truly and happily in a relationship with, it engages certain areas in the brain.
Brain images from FMRI suggest that early-stage, intense romantic love can activate certain dopamine-rich areas in the brain. These areas are associated with reward, desire, addiction and euphoric states. In fact, one of these areas, the anterior cingulate, is responsible for obsessive thinking, cognition and emotion — the characteristics of love.
In a recent research carried out on some midlife women, it found that those who were in highly satisfying marriages had a lower risk for cardiovascular disease than those in less satisfying marriages. It also linked negative interactions with family and friends with poorer health. Having a network of important relationships can also make a difference. Dementia risk was lowest among individuals with a variety of satisfying contacts, the research concluded.