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How relationships affect our health

19 June, 2017
Family improves health

Meaningful relationships not only improve your mental wellbeing, they can also have a positive impact on your physical health.

Benefits of healthy relationships

Healthy relationships are those that are based on respect, care, trust and equality. When we have relationships like these in our lives, it can have beneficial impact on our health. People who have positive relationships are more likely to feel satisfied and happy and less likely to experience physical and mental health problems. Healthy relationships can also help with our feelings of self-worth, self-confidence and our sense of belonging. If we don’t have positive relationships in our lives, we may feel a sense of loneliness or isolation.

Loneliness and your health

Lifeline Australia defines loneliness as a feeling of sadness or distress about being by yourself or disconnection from the world around you. While most people will experience loneliness at some point in their lives, long periods of loneliness and isolation can have a serious impact on your physical and mental health.

According to Relationships Australia, one in 10 Australians over the age of 15 report lacking social support, and according to the Australian Psychological Society, one in four Australians report they are currently experiencing an episode of loneliness. Fifty one per cent of Australians also report feeling lonely for at least one day each week.

According to Lifeline Australia, loneliness and isolation can lead to the following symptoms:

  • aches, pains, headaches
  • low energy and tiredness
  • sleeping difficulties
  • weight gain or weight loss
  • increase in alcohol or drug intake
  • increase in risk of depression, anxiety and panic attacks
  • feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness

Building healthy relationships and connecting with your community can help with feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Building healthy relationships

Healthy relationships take time and energy to build and maintain. Healthdirect Australia list the following tips for building and maintaining healthy relationships:

  • clearly communicate your needs and what type of relationship you want
  • say sorry when you’re wrong
  • show affection and appreciation
  • make the relationship a priority in your life
  • find hobbies that you both enjoy
  • work on feeling good about yourself
  • find solutions that work for both of you
  • make plans for the future

Regularly listening to each other and demonstrating respect and care are vital to building positive relationships.

Healthdirect have the following tips for encouraging more open communication in your relationships:

  • set aside time to speak to each other, without interruptions
  • put yourself in the other person’s shoes
  • don’t rely on the other person to guess what is going on, or how you are feeling
  • listen to each other, and make sure the other person knows you are listening to them
  • let the other person finish what they are saying
  • talk about things honestly and respectfully
  • try not to be too defensive
  • stay calm and try not to attack

Recognising unhealthy relationships

Just as positive relationships can support your health, unhealthy or abusive relationships can have a destructive impact on your physical and mental wellbeing.  

Signs of an abusive relationship

It’s not always easy to see the signs of abuse in a relationship and it’s common for the person experiencing abuse to think it’s somehow their fault or that they deserve it.

Abuse and violence can happen to anyone, but they are never okay. You have the right to feel safe in your relationships and if you’re experiencing violence or abuse, there are support services available. Abuse and violence can happen in any relationship, not just romantic relationships.

ReachOut Australia outline the following signs of an abusive relationship:

  • possessiveness
  • jealousy
  • put-downs
  • threats
  • physical and sexual violence

Abuse can also come in many forms including:

  • verbal
  • psychological
  • financial
  • physical
  • sexual
  • image-based
  • legal

You can read more about the different types of abuse and violence at the National Sexual Assault and Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service.

Getting support

If you’re experiencing abuse or feel you are at risk of abuse, call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) or contact them through online chat. This is the National Sexual Assault and Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you’re experiencing violence in a relationship, you should take it very seriously and seek help. If you feel unsafe or in danger, contact the police (000). You can also call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) for counselling support.  

Where to get more help

If you or someone close to you needs help now, there are phonelines and websites available.

For immediate help in a crisis:

For general mental health support:

For help with relationship problems:


All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified healthcare professional.

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