In a new study, researchers found that strained relationships with parents, siblings, or extended family members may be more harmful to people’s health than a troubled relationship with a significant other.
The research was conducted by a team at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and elsewhere.
The study looked at marriage and family relationships and how they are linked to health outcomes.
The team wanted to understand how family relationships, as compared to marital relationships, are linked to health outcomes over time.
They used data from 2,802 participants in the “Midlife Development in the U.S.” survey, which included a nationally representative sample of adults.
Three rounds of data were collected over a 20-year period from 1995 to 2014. The average participant was 45 years old during the first round.
The survey asked questions about the family strain and family support as well as intimate partner strain and support.
The researchers found that greater family relationship strain was linked to a greater number of chronic conditions and worse health appraisal 10 years later.
They explained that people can choose their friends, but they can’t choose their family. This may be why the relationships are so different in the way they affect long-term health.
But in addition to the negative effects, they pointed out, positive relationships affect people as well.
The team says people are considering how to improve their health, in addition to considering eating healthfully and exercising, they should think about how to reduce the stress and strain in their relationships.
Not all relationships can change, but people can find supportive ones to focus on.
One author of the study is Patricia N. E. Roberson, an assistant professor in UT’s College of Nursing.
The study is published in the Journal of Family Psychology.
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