And may expose you even to personal harm.
You may have heard, or assumed, that relationships are good for your health, longevity, and life expectancy. In general, that’s true—except when a relationship is bad. Anyone who’s been through a tough divorce, dealt with difficult parents or children, or had a backstabbing friend knows that not all relationships are good for your health. If a person in our lives creates stress and problems, that has an impact on well-being too.
Those who reported “adverse” close relationships had a 34% increase in the risk of developing heart problems, even after taking weight, social support, and other factors into consideration. That’s a pretty substantial increase. And more recent research, such as a University of Michigan study from 2016, supports this finding, noting that “stress and [negative] relationship quality directly effect the cardiovascular system.”
In other studies, researchers have found:
- Social isolation is linked to inflammation and hypertension. A review of two decades of research, published in 2016, underlined the connection between being socially isolated and the risk of inflammation, comparing isolation to physical inactivity in adolescence. The same study reported that social isolation could be riskier than clinical factors, like diabetes, when it came to hypertension (high blood pressure).
- Prolonged conflict with other people was strongly associated with lower self-rated health and more health issues, according to a survey of more than 650 adults over two years. Any kind of stress, whether it’s due to a lousy relationship with a lousy person or a demanding job, has a remarkable impact on the efficacy of the immune system.
In some relationships, one person might be very dissatisfied, while the other is completely unaware of an issue. Addressing this situation means conflict, but that conflict does not have to end a relationship.
Effective conflict resolution can improve and repair a relationship. Unresolved conflict is bad, but a botched attempt at reaching a resolution is even worse. How you choose to resolve conflict will affect any relationship in which you’re involved. If you’re dealing with extreme conflict, couples counseling or individual therapy can be very helpful..
Unfortunately, some negative people can’t always be avoided, particularly if they are family. In that case, use relaxation techniques to let go of the stress these encounters cause. Learn how to actively manage your interactions with difficult people so they have less of an impact on your health and life.