‘Satisfying’ relationships keep middle-aged women healthier

Strong social relationships could be the key to a healthy life for middle-aged women, a study has revealed. Females who have “satisfying” ties with partners, friends and colleagues are less likely to develop chronic health conditions in later life, it was suggested.

Researchers found that women who reported the lowest level of satisfaction with their relationships had double the risk of developing multiple conditions compared with those who reported the highest levels.

The study examined data on almost 7,700 women in Australia.

The participants were free from common long-term conditions and aged 45 to 50 when the project began in 1996. Every three years, they reported their satisfaction levels with their partners, family members, friends, work and social groups.

The women were tracked for 20 years to see if they went on to develop diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, osteoporosis, arthritis, cancer, depression and anxiety.

During the follow-up period, some 58 per cent of the women developed more than one of the conditions.

Those who reported strong social relationships were less likely to get diseases, it was said.

The report, written by experts from the University of Queensland, Brisbane, said: “Our findings have significant implications for chronic disease management and intervention.

“At the individual level, these implications may help counsel women regarding the benefits of starting or maintaining high-quality and diverse social relationships throughout middle to early old age.

“Social connections should be considered a public health priority in chronic disease prevention.

“Interventions focusing on social relationship quality may be efficient in preventing the progression of chronic conditions.”

The findings are published in the journal General Psychiatry.

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