Many studies have evaluated social interaction and how they affect our health, both mentally and physically. It is not surprising that most of them came to the conclusion that positive, supportive relationships with those around you have a positive effect on your health, but it was unknown whether the health benefits of social support depend on the backing source.
Research recently published by researchers at Northern Arizona University found signs of accelerated aging in the cells of married people who say they don’t receive emotional support from their spouse. The team measured telomere length, as a known biological marker of biological aging, to determine if there is any association between one’s perceived level of social supportiveness and accelerated aging.
The study results suggest that not only does perceived social supportiveness correlate with telomere length, but also that it matters where the support is coming from.
The NAU study looked at telomere data for more than 1,000 married people over the age of 60 to see if telomere length would be different depending on the nature of peoples’ social relationships.
The Importance is on Spousal Support
Based on previous studies, it is clear that people with more social connections live longer than those with fewer social connections. Therefore, many psychologists think that social support is uniformly a good thing regardless of its source. However, the most important is the support of those who are closest to us, our spouses.
Interesting, the NAU researchers noticed that not everyone that was married and claimed to have social support listed their spouse as a source of said support. However, the study results show that those who perceive their spouse as a source of support have longer telomeres compared to those who did not report their spouse as a source of support. Study clearly suggests that with the support we receive, the source is essential, meaning friends and family can’t make up for the lack of a supportive marriage.
The size of this telomere difference was comparable to differences between men and women and was independent of socio-demographic variables, diagnosed chronic disease and other social relationship resources such as the number of friends, the number of support sources, or the availability of financial support, researchers noted.
It is important to note that this research did not cover people who lacked support generally. The people who did not nominate their spouse as a support source had other sources, but had shorter telomeres. Relative to other sources of social support, spousal support may be especially important for cellular aging, a general biological mechanism that is implicated in age-related chronic disease risk.
What This Means for You, Today
It makes sense that our emotional environment would be affecting our telomeres. Nurturing an intimate relationship with a chosen partner, definitely, reaps long-lasting rewards in many ways. There are many things we can do for our Telomere health, such as standing more often, eating healthier, and getting more exercise.
But often, we are not always getting the right balance. Being able to trigger the pineal gland to release telomerase would be a great benefit. And that is why scientists have been studying the tetra-peptide, Epithalon [Epitalon], for over 30 years.
E. Puterman et al., “Lifespan adversity and later adulthood telomere length in the nationally representative US Health and Retirement Study,” PNAS, doi:10.1073/pnas.1525602113, 2016.