A large body of research has shown that close relationships and social support have a profound effect on health and well-being.
Adults in close and secure romantic relationships have more positive emotions, hope, optimism, social competencies, and emotional self-regulation than those in less secure relationships. People with active and fulfilling social lives are 50 percent less likely to die of any cause than less social people. Lack of strong social ties is a mortality risk factor equal to smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity. Adults with good social connections also are better able to fight off illness; they are four times less likely to catch colds than those with fewer social ties.
Strong social support is linked to positive functioning of the cardiovascular, endocrine, and immune systems. Individuals with few social ties are twice as likely to die of heart disease than those with better social connections. Social support increases resilience in the wake of adversity. For example, New Yorkers with emotional support had fewer PTSD symptoms and faster recovery following the 9/11 attacks than others with less social support.
Of course, adults with close relationships and strong social support were also more likely to have been the beneficiaries of these things when they were children. The importance of healthy relationships in early childhood is undeniable. Children who begin their lives with the essential foundation of secure attachment fare better in all aspects of functioning as they develop. Numerous longitudinal studies have demonstrated that securely attached infants and toddlers do better over time in the following areas:
• independence and autonomy
• resilience in the face of adversity
• ability to manage impulses and feelings
• long-term friendships
• relationships with parents, caregivers, and other authority figures
• prosocial coping skills
• trust, intimacy, and affection
• positive and hopeful belief systems about self, family, and society
• empathy, compassion, and conscience
• behavioral performance and academic success in school
• promoting secure attachment with adult partners and with their own children when they become adults.