Entries in health (28)
A lot of things undermine physical health, like poor diet, lack of exercise, and not enough sleep. Did you know that dysfunctional relationships — those characterized by lots of conflict and poor communication — also contribute to poor health? For example, when couples are "hostile" toward one another, there’s a good chance that any recent wounds (even everyday cuts and abrasions) will take longer to heal than if partners maintain a more civil and responsive tone with one another during disagreements or other conversations.1 On the other hand, good relationships, and not just those we have with our romantic partners, generally benefit our overall health. But why?
In 1938 Harvard began studying a group of men and followed them as they grew old. A book by George Vaillant, entitled Triumphs of Experience, chronicles the results and provides several interesting insights about the role of alcholism, smoking, and intelligence on aging and life satisfaction.
Some of the most intersting findings, at least to us, involved "warm relationships." As this article explains, there was a "powerful correlation between the warmth of your relationships and your health and happiness in your later years." To learn more about the other benefits of warm relationships, click here.
Michelle Kaufman is a researcher who focuses on sexual behavior in the developing world. She globetrots regularly, engaging in ethnographic work along the way in order to inform the quantitative and qualitative research she conducts. Recently, Michelle visited Malawi to start a research study on condom use and accessibility.
I recently returned from a research trip to Malawi where I was training a data collection team on the procedures and questionnaires for two small studies, one focused on condom use and accessibility, and the other on male circumcision. The team with which I work—from the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, Malawi—is in the midst of conducting a 10-year-long program called BRIDGE, which focuses on HIV prevention through the provision of services such as voluntary male medical circumcision (VMMC), getting pregnant women to enroll in treatment for prevention of mother-to-child-transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, and, most relevant to this article, condom distribution.
“Closure” is a term I have heard bandied about by many of my friends over the years, but I have always wondered what it really means. For example, after my friend Daphne’s long-distance boyfriend broke up with her over the phone, she told me she needed to fly from NYC to London to see him in person to “get closure.” Even after she saw him in person, she still didn’t feel like things were really over. The meaning of closure is something I have grappled with when trying to make sense of one of my own past relationships. I spent the better part of 10 years trying to get closure with The Question Mark so that I could move on, trying everything from writing him long treatises on why our relationship could never work, to hashing things out in person in order to finally say “goodbye.”
When faced with a potential break-up, who among us hasn’t uttered the phrase, “You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone?” Whether expressed as a threat or stated matter-of-factly, it is an all-too-familiar anthem for underappreciated dumpers and dumpees alike. Even if you were only bluffing when you said it, you can seek solace in the fact that whether they want to or not, your exs are indeed going to miss you when you’re gone.
In my last post, I discussed the research showing that couples who receive social approval of their relationships from their friends and family are more likely to report greater relationship satisfaction and more enduring relationships. One of the key points researchers have made in this area is that it is the perception of support/approval that matters most. This means that, regardless of the actual level of support your relationship receives from your friends and family, it is your own perception of that support that most strongly influences your relationship and health outcomes.1 And yes, I did just say relationship AND health outcomes, because research has shown that not only do people in socially-supported relationships (same-sex AND mixed-sex) report greater relationship satisfaction, love, commitment and duration, they also experience fewer mental and physical health problems. That’s right; if everyone you know disapproves of your relationship and you’ve been suffering from depression, anxiety, increased stress or even more frequent physical ailments, it’s quite possible that these experiences are connected.
Want to earn more money and lead a healthier life? Have more sex (correlation/causation issues aside). Not that you needed more reasons to have sex on a weekly basis, a recent study of Greek men and women found that those who reported having more sex earned higher salaries and were less likely to suffer from certain health problems. You can read more over at the Huffington Post.
It is often easy to see how your job influences your relationship. If you work long hours, you have less time to spend with your partner. If you have a particularly hectic or demanding workweek, your work stress can easily spill over into your relationship.1 However, chances are you pay less attention to how your relationship influences your job. If you do in fact “take your relationship to work” with you by letting your personal life influence your job, this may have important implications for your career success. It’s also possible that your relationship doesn’t directly undermine you at your job, but rather negative relationship experiences could harm you emotionally or undermine your physical health, which then compromise your job.
Over a decade ago, I promised myself I’d never ask my husband anything that resembles the loaded question, “do these pants make my butt look big?” Although I believe that women are subjected to impossible standards of beauty that could lead any reasonable woman to feel insecure about her appearance, I did not want to reveal myself as insecure about my weight. I knew I was not “fat,” and did not want to find myself behaving like a stereotypical weight-obsessed woman. However, most of all, I made a conscious choice – as a woman who studies body image and eating behaviors – to try my best to be confident about my weight. I believed then, and still believe today, that I don’t have the professional luxury of questioning my body or my weight if I am going to tell other people that they should eat healthy foods and not “worry” about their weight.
True confession time: Before we (the authors of this article) got engaged, Charlotte already had a specific date and time reserved for the church where our wedding would be held.1 Although no ultimatum was ever given, it was pretty clear to Patrick that after living together for several years, it was time for him to think about marriage. Needless to say, the ring was bought, the wedding occurred on the given date at the nonnegotiable location, and we have been living happily ever after. Our story is hardly unique. Common wisdom suggests that young women can’t wait to walk down the aisle whereas young men grudgingly make the trek to the altar. Women may start planning their weddings long before their partners have a ring picked out, but perhaps women need to think more carefully about what they are getting into.
There has been a lot of talk in the American media recently about a perhaps more “evolved” form of love in which people have open or multiple relationships—polyamory. Tanzanians have a history of this practice through polygynous practices (having multiple wives), which is rooted in the Bantu tradition. In fact, polygyny is permitted for up to 4 wives in Tanzania, with the permission of the first wife.
Research has long suggested that saying “I do” to a significant other is similar to saying “I do” to better health.1 Married people – especially married men – report better health and live longer than single people.2,3 But marriage itself is not necessarily the reason for these differences; there are many explanations for the health benefits of marriage including increased social support, improved health behaviors by folks who are married, more positive attitudes about health by the married, as well as the benefits of having a partner to help provide health insurance.4,5
Why are men more likely to experience health benefits in their relationships than are women?
The legendary rockers of the American band KISS may not have been so far off when they belted out, “Baby, I know what your problem is...the first step of the cure is a kiss!” in their hit single, “Calling Dr. Love.” They couldn’t have known it at the time, but current relationship scientists may now agree with Gene Simmons’ medical claims. There might be a little something special to that kiss.
Lately I have observed more and more of my friends aspiring to be like Samantha from Sex and The City – i.e., having strings of casual sex and dating relationships – instead of following the traditional notion of settling down and getting married. Well, for all those non-believers of marriage, here is a reason to change your mind: according to a new study,1 marriage is good for your health.
Trust is good for your relationship, but does it also benefit your physical health? A sample of married, engaged, and dating couples completed surveys every six months for for two and a half years. Partners experiencing more trust in their relationships subsequently had lower depression and anxiety, which in turn were associated with enhanced mental and better physical health. Exercising trust in your relationship is good for your mind and body.
Schneider, I. K., Konijn, E. A., Righetti, F., & Rusbult, C. E. (2011). A healthy dose of trust: The relationship between interpersonal trust and health. Personal Relationships, 18, 668-676.
I cannot find any topics [on the site] covering female or male masturbation. Do you plan on writing about this topic in the future?
Thanks for your question. I agree that masturbation is an important topic to address and it’s one that interests a lot of people. Aside from female orgasm, self-love is perhaps the most frequent issue students ask about in my Human Sexuality course. The two most common things that come up with respect to masturbation are fears about whether this behavior is bad for one’s health and whether it creates relationship problems. Let’s take a moment to clear up these concerns.
Several years ago, I read a journal article in which the researchers reported that individuals who had recently fallen in love had higher levels of cortisol than did individuals in long-term relationships or those in no relationship at all. Importantly, high levels of cortisol can eventually weaken the immune system and undermine physical health. Admittedly, this finding baffled me. If chronically high levels of cortisol can be bad for health, then how does that explain the overwhelmingly positive impression people have of being passionately in love? I’ve yet to find a Valentine’s Day card that reads, “I love you so much that you make me susceptible to pneumonia.”
As if you needed one more reason to feel guilty for couch-surfing when you should be kick-boxing, a recent study on long-term relationships indicates that men in excellent or good health have better sex than their flabbier or sickly peers. The good news doesn’t stop there: healthier dudes are nearly twice as likely to report relationship happiness outside the bedroom as well.