How Relationships Can Affect Your Stress Levels


You know that healthy, supportive relationships bring joy and fulfillment to your life – but did you know they can also help lower your stress levels and stay healthy longer?

Social connections are a natural way for people to manage stress and stay vital – we’re wired from birth to seek out relationships for a sense of safety and security. By meeting these different needs, your relationships can help you increase your energy and sense of well-being.

Specifically, social connections can help relieve stress by:

  • Being inherently enjoyable
  • Offering a sense of belonging, being needed, and being useful
  • Providing opportunities for learning from friends
  • Giving you a chance to help others
  • Giving you a chance to feel valued
  • Providing meaning in life
  • Offering help with problem-solving
  • Offering pragmatic aid (e.g. give you a lift when your car is in the shop)
  • Giving emotional support during difficult times

Research has also shown that healthy relationships may help us live longer. A nine-year landmark study (published in 1979) looked at the death rates of 6,928 people and found that the death rate of socially isolated people was twice as high as the rates for those with strong social ties. Similarly, another study found that over the course of three years, male survivors of heart attacks were twice as likely to die when they were socially isolated, as compared with those who had more connections.

Much of the power of relationships lies in the opportunity they provide to laugh, play, and share good times. Importantly, the sense of connection they offer can enable you to feel like a part of something larger than yourself. This enables you to feel supported and comforted through bad times. During daily life, it can also support your efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle (such as eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly). So, by making caring, supportive relationships a central part of how you care for yourself, you will likely stress less about life’s difficulties, appreciate more of the good that comes your way, and live a longer, happier life.

by Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD