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Student Editorials

Are relationships good for your health?

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 28 January 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d404
  1. David Gallacher, specialist trainee year 3 in paediatrics1,
  2. John Gallacher, reader2
  1. 1Department of Paediatrics, University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff
  2. 2 Department of Primary Care and Public Health, School of Medicine, Cardiff University

Choose your partner carefully

Love is a voyage of discovery from dopamine drenched romance to oxytocin induced attachment. Making this journey can be fraught with hazards and lead many to question the value of romance and commitment.

Nevertheless, the impact of stable long term exclusive relationships on longevity is well established. In a study of one billion person years across seven European countries the married persons had age adjusted mortality rates that were 10-15% lower than the population as a whole.1 So, on balance, it probably is worth making the effort.

Young love

Less well established are the benefits of early phase romantic relationships—that is, dating. Evidence suggests that romantic relationships in adolescence are associated with increased depressive symptoms,2 although less so as you get older. Romantic relationships in 18-25 year olds are associated with better mental health, but not better physical health.34 So it seems that a degree of maturity is required before Cupid is likely to bring a net health benefit.

Theoretical perspectives on marriage and other forms of commitment suggest that dating should bring a health benefit. The selection hypothesis says that well adjusted individuals are more likely to establish long term relationships. On …

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