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There’s convincing evidence that strong relationships contribute to a long, healthy and happy life. On the other hand, the health risks for those who live isolated are comparable to those linked to smoking, high blood pressure and obesity. Researchers show how improving ties with loved ones can help health wise.

Live longer. A review of 148 studies found that people with strong relationships are 50% less likely to die prematurely. Similarly, Dan Buettner’s Blue Zones research calculates that committing to a life partner can add three years to life expectancy. Researchers Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, authors of Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives (338 pages, Brown & Cia, 2009), discovered that men’s life expectancy benefits from marriage more than women’s do.

Deal with stress. The support offered by a caring friend can provide a buffer against the effects of stress. In a study of over 100 people, researchers found that people who complete a stressful task experience have a faster recovery when they were reminded of people with whom they had strong relationships.

Be healthier. Strong relationships contribute to health at any age. According to the research by psychologist Sheldon Cohen, college students who reported having strong relationships were half as likely to catch the common cold when exposed to the virus. In another study with older adults, she discovered that loneliness is a significant predictor of poor health. Having family and friends to count on also increases satisfaction with personal health according to a 2012 international Gallup poll – more than people who feel isolated. Another issue brought up is the type of friends to have relationships with. Hanging out with healthy people increases your own likelihood of health. In the book by Christakis and Fowler, non-obese people are more likely to have non-obese friends because healthy habits spread through our social networks.

Feel richer. A survey by the National Bureau of Economic Research of 5,000 people found that doubling your group of friends had the same effect on your well-being as a 50% increase in income. Click here for full article.