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Can your relationship status make a difference in your overall well-being? To borrow a commonly used Facebook phrase, it's complicated. Research shows that strong partnerships can help us avoid illness, adopt healthier habits, and even live longer.
On the other hand, troubled relationships tend to breed stress and weaken immunity. So whether you're dating casually, shacking up, or already married, keep in mind these 12 key ways your romantic bond may influence your mind and body.
It's a common belief that couples "let themselves go" after pairing off, and there may be something to it. According to a reviewpeople tend to gain 5 ways your relationship can ruin your sleep as they settle into marriage and lose weight when a marriage ends.
But Troiani has seen the opposite happen quite often, as well: Regular physical intimacy appears to reduce stress and boost well-being. One studypublished in in the Journal of Sexual Medicinefound that people who frequently had sex were healthier mentally and more likely to report greater satisfaction with their relationship and life overall.
Sex is just one aspect of a relationship, however.
And your partner's behavior outside the bedroom can just as easily send stress levels soaring in the opposite direction. Parenting disputes, disagreements over moneyor even questions as simple as who does which household chores have been shown to increase stress.
Sex isn't the only type of physical contact that can lower stress and improve health. In a study of 38 couples, University of North Carolina researchers found that both men and women had higher blood levels of oxytocin—a hormone believed to ease stress and improve mood —after hugging.
The women also had lower blood pressure post-hug, and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Sleeping next to someone you love and trust can help you fully relax and embrace sleep, Troiani says. A big exception to that rule, of course, is if your bedmate keeps you up at night—by snoring, for instance, or by tossing and turning.
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In a pollpeople were more likely to experience daytime fatigue and fitful sleep themselves if their partner was struggling with insomnia. Relationships can affect sleep in less direct ways, too.
Research shows that relationship insecurity or conflict is associated with poorer sleep—and to make matters worse, sleep problems can exacerbate relationship problems, creating a vicious cycle. Relationship difficulties can put anyone on edge, but in some cases they may actually contribute to full-blown anxiety. Several studies have found a link between marital problems and an increased risk of diagnoses such as generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety.
These links can be difficult to untangle, however, since anxiety has been shown to breed relationship problems and not just vice versa. What's more, some research suggests marriage may help protect against anxiety.
In a World Health Organization study of 35, people in 15 countries, those who were married—happily or otherwise the study didn't specify —were less likely to develop anxiety 5 ways your relationship can ruin your sleep other mental disorders. Depression and anxiety often go hand in hand, so it makes sense that relationships can affect depression in similarly complex ways. On the one hand, some studies have found that long-term relationships—and marriage, specifically—can ease symptoms in people with a history of depression.
On the other hand, fraught relationships have been shown to dramatically increase the risk of clinical depression. In one small but highly cited studywomen—regardless of their personal and family history of depression—were six times more likely to be clinically depressed if their husbands had been unfaithful or if their marriages were breaking apart.
Our romantic partners have a noticeable impact on how much alcohol we consume, and how often. One studywhich followed more than couples during their first four years of marriage, found that people's drinking habits tended to mirror those of their spouse; if their partner drank heavily, they too were more likely to do so.
It's also true that relationship conflict and a lack of intimacy can drive people to drink. Research suggests that both men and women drink more in response to relationship problems—and excessive drinking, in turn, can add fuel to those problems. A person's diet, exercise habits, and stress levels can all have an impact on blood pressure, so it's 5 ways your relationship can ruin your sleep surprising that your relationship status—and the strength of your relationship—can, too.
In a highly publicized studyresearchers at Brigham Young University found that people in happy marriages tended to have lower blood pressure than their single counterparts. People who were unhappily married, however, tended to have higher blood pressure than singles.
The link between relationships and cardiovascular health goes well beyond blood pressure. Studies have consistently reported that being married is associated with a lower risk of heart attack and better outcomes after heart surgeryespecially for men.