- The greater the family strain, the higher the odds of chronic conditions
- Researchers did not find the same effect with romantic relationship problems
- They theorise its because relationships end and people move on
Falling out with your parents, siblings or even distant cousins may be more detrimental to your health than a row with your partner, researchers say
They say blood is thicker than water – and now researchers have uncovered proof that supports the old adage.
Falling out with your parents, siblings or distant cousins may damage your health more than falling out with your partner, a study found.
Data showed over-45s whose relationships with family members were strained faced greater risk of a stroke, back pain and headaches.
However, a break down of a romantic relationship did not have the same damaging effects.
Academics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center tracked 2,802 participants for two decades. All of them took surveys asking about their relationships and health.
Questions included ‘How often do members of your family criticize you?’, and ‘How much can you rely on [your family] for help?’.
They were also asked ‘How often does your spouse or partner argue with you?’, as well as ‘How much does your spouse or partner appreciate you?’
Health was measured as ‘morbidity’, based on participants’ number of chronic conditions experienced in the past year. The paper did not indicate what all of these were.
Participants also rated their overall health on a scale of zero to five, from excellent to poor, during each of the three surveys.
We’re social creatures – in the past we always lived in packs and groups and in today’s world with pressure and demands, it’s healthy to have a sounding board to share the ups and downs of the day.
In 2010, the World Health Organisation found marriage can reduce the risk of depression and anxiety and singles are more likely to suffer the blues than those who are married.
Last year, Aston Medical School in Birmingham released details of a 13-year study of one million participants and concluded that being married is better for your health than being single. Married individuals were less likely to die from conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
The researchers cited that one reason for improved health was the encouragement received from their partner to eat healthy, get enough exercise and take their medication. Perhaps not surprisingly, men fared even better than women.
Source: Dr Jen Nash, clinical psychologist
Dr Sarah Woods and team found a link between greater family relationship strain and the morbidity 10 years later.
In comparison, there were no significant effects of intimate partner relationships on health outcomes.
Dr Woods said: ‘We were honestly stunned there were zero associations between intimate partner emotional climate and later health.’
The authors theorised the lack of health problems caused by the breakdown of any romantic relationship is because people move-on after breaking up.
Discussing their findings, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, they also said it could be because you have known family for a much longer time.
Dr Patrician Roberson, study co-author, said: ‘The vast majority of the people in the study had living parents or siblings.
‘Thus, their relationship with a spouse or intimate partner was less likely to be as long as that of their family members.
‘Therefore, the emotional intensity of these relationships may be greater, so much so that people experience more of an effect on their health and well-being.’
Adults who already have chronic conditions may see their health worsen due to a negative family environment.
Dr Woods said: ‘This is why I encourage patients to bring supportive family members with them to their doctors’ visits and to create an open dialogue about their health conditions and concerns.
‘Having that support definitely has a significant effect on quality of life and well-being.’