Relationships are one of the most important aspects of our lives, yet we can often forget just how crucial our connections with other people are for our physical and mental health.
It’s been recognised for a while now that one in every four people in the world will develop a mental health or neurological condition at some point in their lives. The severity of these conditions varies between individuals, so won’t necessarily result in hospitalisation or long-term treatments. However, mental ill-health is undeniably one of the fastest-growing sectors in global healthcare.
How important are relationships to good mental health?
The Mental Health Foundation recently issued a report on relationships in the 21st century, which flagged up just how important relationships and family connections are for long-term mental and physical well-being.
One of the main conclusions was that: ‘Having good quality relationships can help us to live longer and happier lives with fewer mental health problems.’ It also found that: ‘Close, positive relationships can give us a purpose and sense of belonging.’
Our relationships often define our social standing and levels of confidence, and are not just about intimate partnerships with a ‘significant other.’ The relationships that matter most to every individual are formed from birth, and include:
- Parents, siblings, and grandparents
- Teachers and professionals
- Work colleagues
- Within social and residential communities
As we can see, the term ‘relationship’ means different things to different individuals, however, let’s focus purely on the mental health benefits of being in an intimate romantic relationship, and the ways these can benefit both partners and also any children in the family.
Mental health benefits of being with a loving and close partner
It’s the quality of any close relationship that’s truly important when it comes to mental health benefits. When relationships become toxic or involve conflict, they can actually cause damage to you and other family members.
In this respect, a recent study from Direct Line does flag concerns about whether it’s the right thing to stay with a partner for the sake of the children. It’s estimated that up to 7.6 million UK parents stay together longer due to worries about the way separating might affect the kids.
It’s also estimated that up to 41% of people in relationships fail to tell their partner of their plans to separate in the future, while many parents remain locked into failing or unhappy relationships for almost six years longer than they would if there were no children involved.
In many ways, it has to be assumed that many of these relationships must be providing a certain amount of the support and care needed for individual mental health benefits, alongside the security blanket that can help children develop.
However, if thoughts of separation impact overall family harmony, it has to be said that the parent contemplating separation should consider whether this is more detrimental to any child’s well-being and growth or learning potential.
Being in a loving relationship can bring great joys and cut risks of mental health issues, however, staying in a relationship past its natural end date, for whatever reason, could actually be a risk factor for mental health problems.