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The Health Benefits of Strong Relationships With Exclusive Commentary From Anne Martin

Posted: December 21, 2010

NOTE: Only on SkinInc.com: Exclusive spa-focused commentary by Anne Martin, owner of Anne Martin Skin Care, follows this news item explaining how to understand and make the most of your relationship with your spa clients.

For many, the holidays mean family gatherings, getting together with friends, and participating in special religious, community and workplace activities. Such occasions are an opportunity to check in with each other, exchange ideas and perhaps lend a supportive ear or shoulder.

Social connections like these not only give us pleasure, they also influence our long-term health in ways every bit as powerful as adequate sleep, a good diet and not smoking. Dozens of studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends and their community are happier, have fewer health problems and live longer.

Conversely, a relative lack of social ties is associated with depression and later-life cognitive decline, as well as with increased mortality. One study that examined data from more than 309,000 people found that lack of strong relationships increased the risk of premature death from all causes by 50%—an effect on mortality risk roughly comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and greater than obesity and physical inactivity.

What makes social connections healthful

Scientists are investigating the biological and behavioral factors that account for the health benefits of connecting with others. For example, they've found that it helps relieve harmful levels of stress that can adversely affect coronary arteries, gut function, insulin regulation and the immune system. Another line of research suggests that caring behaviors trigger the release of stress-reducing hormones.