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Loving Relationships Bring Life

The saying, ‘the friendless owner of the world is poor’ could well be changed to, ‘the friendless owner of the world is sick’. Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, have identified a distinct pattern of gene expression in immune cells from people who experience chronically high levels of loneliness.

‘The study provides a molecular framework for understanding why social factors are linked to an increased risk of heart disease, viral infections and cancer. Having previously established that lonely people suffer from higher mortality than people who are not, researchers are now trying to determine whether that risk is a result’ of one or several factors … (full story in Special Feature).

Researchers the world over agree that health risks are increased as relationships deteriorate and loneliness increases. Chris Kemp, in an article titled ‘Death Through Isolation’ tell us that in 1999 a Swedish study was released that strongly indicated that:

‘Social isolation is a major factor in the development of heart disease. The heart rates of 300 healthy women were monitored continuously over a 24-hour period. The subjects also answered questions about the proximity of their families, their network of friends and how frequently they felt angry or sad.

Findings showed that the hearts of women who had no friends or family to turn to for help or social interaction were less able to respond to the stresses put on them by common situations. Their hearts showed a level of consistency that lacked the peaks and troughs normally seen in heart rate throughout the day. This lack of heart rate variability has long been implicated as a causative factor of heart disease. In other words, loneliness kills.

This is a bold statement, but it’s not truly shocking news. In the 1950s, researchers at Harvard University randomly selected 126 males and asked them to describe the kind of relationship they had with their parents. In 1987, medical files were obtained for the subjects, most of whom were then in their 50s.

More than 90 percent of those who previously had described a cold and unaffectionate relationship with their mothers had been diagnosed with serious illnesses in the intervening 35 years. These ranged from coronary artery disease, stomach ulcers and depression to alcoholism and hypertension. In those who recalled a warm, loving relationship with their mothers, only 45 percent had suffered serious illness.’

Dr Lisa Berkman, citing the Alameda County Studies, said that men and women who lacked ties to others (in this case, based on an index assessing contacts with friends and relatives, marital status and church and group membership) were 1.9 to 3.1 times more likely to die in a 9 year follow up period from 1965 to 1974 than those who had more contacts.

The causes of death were not limited to one type of disease but included heart disease, circulatory disease, cancer, respiratory disease and many others. Clearly loneliness kills!!

Perhaps we should reverse the negative to a positive. Loving relationships bring life.

An article in The Times, UK, said that, ‘Marriage still confers considerable benefits to adults and children alike, according to a comprehensive study on the state of the family. The British Office for National Statistics has published definitive proof that married couple live longer, enjoy better health and can rely on more home care in old age than their divorced, widowed, single and co-habiting peers. Children who live with their married parents are also healthier and are more successful in their educational achievements.’

What is the message here for fathers? Invest in your marriages and your family relationships. Enjoy your friendships because as we said before, the friendless owner of the world is not only poor, but is likely to be sick.

Lovework

Invest in your relationships. You will be surprised how much you get back and your children will be better off for it.

Yours for relationship investing
Warwick Marsh

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