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 Nurturing Relationships: Hug for Longevity 
 
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Mind Over Matter by . View all columns in series
Difficult to build, challenging to maintain and often short-lived, ongoing nurturing relationships are less common these days.

Considering the fact that 43-50% of new marriages are projected to end in divorce, the chances of staying together in the long run are no better than a coin toss. When one factors in the observation that distances separating families are progressively expanding, and that the number of two-earner families is the norm rather than the exception, the prospects for long-term close relationships are diminishing considerably.

Life in the fast lane isn't likely to build bonds either. Caught up in the challenges of a pressured society, most people seem to have little time to catch their breath. Lasting friendships require time and energy - two commodities most people are unwilling or unable to spare.

While it's been said that "no man is an island," there seems to be considerable distance between people in our society. Such separation may serve as a significant contributor to dis-ease when our nation tends to be more invested in Prozac than in long-term relationships. The sense of being needed, supported and loved will never be equaled pharmacologically.

A number of phenomenal studies support my contention. One that immediately comes to mind actually began in the early 50s. Researchers at Harvard University asked 126 healthy men to simply rate their relationship with their parents. The scale ranged from 1 (strained and cold) to 4 (very close). Data was reviewed 35 years later and published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine (1997). The study demonstrated that 91% of respondents who did not have a warm relationship with their mothers suffered a serious midlife disease. In comparison, only 45% of those who noted a warm relationship with their mothers experienced a serious midlife illness. Relative to relationships with fathers and to both parents, the data was similar. In summary, men reporting close relationships with either or both parents suffered approximately one half the number of serious midlife illnesses as those who didn't.

Another key study was performed at Duke University School of Medicine and reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1992. Researchers tracked 1400 men and women with at least one blocked heart vessel. After 5 years unmarried men and women without close confidants were more than 3 times likely to have died as those who were married, had a close confidant or both. And if you ever needed a reason to make up with a loved-one, consider this: after 5 years, 50% of the unmarried subjects who did not have a close confidant were DEAD!

The bottom line is simple - close relationships foster healing and promote survival. We see it everyday in our clinical programs. People who are supported by loved-ones, spouses, children, grandchildren, friends and communities seem to be more motivated and successful in adapting to and living beyond the challenges of chronic illnesses.

In fact, we routinely recommend the creation of a support team to help our patients optimize their efforts to regain the gift of a healthy life. We also focus on better understanding and recognizing each person's specific needs while promoting the realization that each support person has a specific role. Realistic expectations translate into lasting relationships that promote health and well-being.

In a world that is so fragmented, an infrastructure of wires and fiber optics connecting computer modems is no substitute for the real bonds that link people who care enough about each other to remain close. Your investment of time, concern, caring, devotion and empathy is a powerful healing elixir - the essence of an unequalled formula referred to as LOVE. It is our greatest gift to each other and the principal factor that enables us to become whole again.

In conclusion, it's well-established that those who go it alone and who do it independently "their way"" are more likely to succumb to serious illnesses in the long run. We thrive on compassion, caring and nurturing which obviously translates into the biology of health and longevity. We need each other. There's no better way to begin the rest of your life than with a hug -- Mind Over Matter!

© 2000 Barry Bittman, MD all rights reserved

      
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 About The Author
Barry Bittman, MD is a neurologist, author, international speaker, award-winning producer/director and inventor. As CEO and Medical Director of the Mind-Body Wellness Center, a......moreBarry Bittman MD
 
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