Relationships and Health


A relationship is any connection that involves two people in an intimate and committed partnership. These relationships may be romantic, platonic or family-based. A healthy relationship requires communication and compromise from both partners and is a mutually rewarding experience that can bring joy and meaning to one’s life.

A healthy relationship involves a respect for one’s independence and freedom. In a healthy relationship both partners are happy to be with each other and enjoy each other’s company but can spend time apart without fear of retaliation. They are not afraid to talk about difficult subjects and are able to communicate respectfully even when they disagree. They also allow each other to be themselves without trying to change them or impose their own values on the other.

Relationships can be positive, negative or toxic. In toxic relationships, one or both of the partners can contribute to feelings of anger, depression, anxiety and insecurity. It is not unusual for these toxic feelings to lead to conflict or even separation and divorce.

Research has shown that social relationships—both the quantity and quality of these relationships–have short- and long-term effects on mental health, health behavior and physical health. Sociologists have played a critical role in establishing the link between these factors and exploring explanations for this link, including how social variation shapes health outcomes. These articles explore important themes in this research, including the roles of gender, age and socioeconomic status in the link between social connections and health.