Women over 45 in ‘satisfying’ relationships less likely to develop chronic illness, study finds
Middle-aged women who have “satisfying” relationships with partners, friends and colleagues are less likely to develop chronic health conditions later in life, a new study has suggested.
The new study, published in the journal General Psychiatry, examined data on almost 7,700 women in Australia.
When the study began in 1996, the women did not have any of the 11 common long-term conditions aged 45 to 50.
Every three years, the women involved in the study reported their satisfaction levels with their partners, family members, friends, work and social activities.
The women were tracked for 20 years to see if they went on to develop cancer, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, osteoporosis, arthritis, depression and anxiety.
During the follow-up period, 58 per cent of the women developed more than one of the conditions.
Researchers found that women who reported the lowest level of satisfaction with their social relationships had double the risk of developing multiple conditions compared with those who reported the highest levels of satisfaction, according to the analysis.
The authors of the study suggested that it could be beneficial for doctors to ask their patients about their social relationships.
“Our findings have significant implications for chronic disease management and intervention,” the authors from the University of Queensland, Brisbane, wrote.
“First, 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.
“Second, at the community level, interventions focusing on social relationship satisfaction or quality may be particularly efficient in preventing the progression of chronic conditions.
It added that social connections should be considered a “public health priority” in chronic disease prevention and intervention.
They added: "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.”
With additional reporting from PA.