The secret to a long, healthy life

What’s the secret to the longest, healthiest life? It isn’t money, fame, genetics, or your cholesterol level. It’s actually close relationships!

Close relationships—particularly how happy you are with family, friends, and your community—are the key to a long and healthy life. For example, the level of satisfaction you have in your relationships at age 50 is a better predictor of your physical health, mental health, and life expectancy than your cholesterol level at age 50.

High-quality relationships are associated with living 50% longer, regardless of age, gender, or health status. Yet loneliness leads to a 26% increase in premature death. When asked how long they think they’ll live, people say they expect to live longer when they feel supported, especially if they have a caregiver when they’re sick. The more socially connected people feel, the more likely they are to live longer.

Close relationships can also improve health for Service Members and their families, who often experience changes in relationships as a result of deployments, injuries, moving every 2–3 years, and other circumstances.

  • Military families who have close relationships eat and sleep better.
  • Military couples who view their romantic relationships in a positive way can better navigate stressful experiences, such as deployments and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
  • Strong team relationships can lessen the negative effects of combat.

In addition, close relationships are important for Veterans. When Service Members transition out of the military, they often feel disconnected or a lack of belonging in their communities. Some Veterans might feel lonely because their family and friends don’t seem to understand their military experiences. Participation in the community can help Veterans feel like they’re a part of a group, less lonely, more optimistic, and happier.

When Service Members and their civilian spouses report feeling family support from military leaders and fellow Service Members, they claim to feel more satisfied with their lives. And when civilian spouses are satisfied with military life, so are their Service Members. These factors affect retention, morale, and military burnout, all of which are important concerns for the military.

How can you ensure your relationships are strong and satisfying so you can live the longest and healthiest life? Consider the following tips from HPRC:

  • Express gratitude. Showing gratitude improves relationships and life satisfaction. Service Members who express gratitude are happier with their lives, even if they have high stress levels. Expressing gratitude also improves other aspects of health, including sleep, happiness, and performance.
  • Provide social support. Supporting your loved ones, friends, and teammates can help strengthen those relationships, and can also improve your performance and well-being. Social support reduces stress and prevents military burnout too.
  • Start family traditions. Family traditions can promote close family relationships by encouraging family members to spend quality time together. Even if your family tradition is as simple as a bedtime story or sharing a meal together, family traditions are important for family health and bonding.
  • Strive for team cohesion. Team cohesion is a sign of close relationships. Support, trust, and cooperation are ways to build strong relationships and strong teams.
  • Get involved in your community. To feel a sense of community, you need to feel like you belong. Whether you feel connected to a specific place (such as a neighborhood or religious building), or to an organization (such as the military at large or a veterans organization), community involvement is linked to a higher quality of life and well-being.

Published on: December 20, 2022

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