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How your relationships affect your life expectancy

How your relationships affect your life expectancy
You probably know that things like diet and alcohol consumption affect your life expectancy, but what about relationships? Kelley Nele explores how relationships can give you life
Look up how to increase your life expectancy, and you will probably see plenty of results recommending that you have a healthy diet, get adequate sleep, work out and cut out tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption. But what many of us don’t know is that our relationships also affect our life expectancy
While our relationships offer us so many gifts like companionship, laughter, fun and joy, they offer us so much more than that. Our relationships quite literally give us life.

The importance of human connection

Social integration is associated with greater life satisfaction, better health and increased life expectancy. People with wide social networks are more likely to be happy, experience fewer health issues, experience better mental health and to live a lot longer. 
Wide social network
Having a solid social network is important for good health
The safety and support experienced within our connections help calm our stress-response system, keeping vicious stress-related diseases at bay. 
Conversely, a lack of social connection can contribute to anxiety, depression and stress-related diseases like inflammation, type 2 diabetes and cancer. Overall, social isolation can increase our mortality rate by 91 per cent and contribute to premature death. 
"The quality of our relationships matter"
Now this doesn’t mean that we should dive head first into a relationship whenever we’re lonely in order to avoid premature death. Or that we should seek to join just any social group. The quality of our relationships matter.  
Toxic relationships—whether platonic, romantic or consanguineal—can equally contribute to negative mental, emotional and physical health. Toxic relationships can be as isolating as being alone, so who we choose to break bread with is absolutely vital to our overall health.  
The good news is that the deterioration of our health, as a result of toxic relationships, often takes decades to occur, and if our health is in fact compromised, social integration can help offset the health issues we have acquired. 
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Gender differences

Our sex also plays a role in how our relationships affect us, especially regarding romantic relationships.  
Have you ever wondered why some people are single and thriving, while others are drowning in misery? Or why some married couples exist in a consistent state of bliss, while others are practically mortal enemies?
There is a consensus amongst many cultures that being married contributes to a person’s health and life expectancy tremendously. In fact, people who have never been married have a lower life expectancy compared to their married peers.  
Research shows that marriage has greater benefits for men than it does women. Married men tend to thrive compared to their unmarried peers.  
Because men don’t have as many social networks—outside of family and romantic partners—as women do, being coupled up is highly beneficial for them. Being married/coupled allows men to receive the much needed emotional support that they would lack if they were single. They also get the added benefit of being physically taken care of thanks to the gender roles society still subscribes to. 
Happy couple
For women, life expectancy is dependent on the quality of the relationship
Women, on the other hand, don’t have as much luck when it comes to being married/coupled. According to research, a woman’s level of satisfaction and life expectancy is dependent on the quality of the relationship
A woman in a toxic relationship is likely to experience the mental, emotional and physical ramifications that come with that. And conversely, a woman in a healthy relationship is likely to thrive. 
Research shows that the women who are happily married tend to be coupled with partners who take on their fair share of household responsibilities. 
Of course, in the end, unmarried, childless women are more likely to thrive compared to their married and child-rearing peers. Why? Well, because all of the energy that a woman would pour into a husband, kids, and managing a household is poured into herself.
These women can still live their best lives so long as they have a solid group of girlfriends and/or strong familial ties. 
"A woman’s level of satisfaction and life expectancy is dependent on the quality of the relationship"
But that’s not all, age gaps also need to be factored in to determine relationship satisfaction.
Men tend to benefit more from relationships with wider age gaps. Younger partners lends them the vitality older partners may not be able to. In addition to that, a younger partner is more physically equipped to care-take for a much longer period than an older partner. 
Women, on the other hand, do not benefit from wider age gaps. Whether she is dating significantly older or younger, a woman’s life expectancy gets shorter the greater the age gap. Both younger and older partners may require more caretaking, and there may be a risk of a power imbalance with an older partner. Women are therefore far more likely to thrive with same-age partners or those who are in similar life arenas. 
All of this said, it’s abundantly clear that human connection is pivotal. If you should take anything from this, it’s that cultivating and sustaining relationships can be just as crucial to your health as taking vitamins is. 
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