Posted on Oct 10, 2014, 6 a.m.
People engaged in supportive and rewarding relationships have better mental health, higher levels of well-being and lower rates of disease.
Previously, a number of studies have suggested that maintaining close and meaningful relationships is an anti-aging essential, serving as an important mental and emotional health support mechanism. Brooke C. Feeney, from Carnegie Mellon University (Pennsylvania, USA), and colleagues explored the role of relationships in a person’s capacity to thrive, that is – to learn, grow, explore, achieve goals, cultivate new talents, and find purpose and meaning in life. The team submits that people will be most likely to thrive with well-functioning close relationships that serve different support functions – whether the relationship is with friends, parents, siblings, a spouse, or mentors. The review emphasizes two types of support, both serving unique functions in different life contexts. The first important function of relationships is to support thriving through adversity, not only by buffering individuals from negative effects of stress, but also by enabling them to flourish either because of or in spite of their circumstances. The second important function of relationships is to support thriving in the absence of adversity by promoting full participation in life opportunities for exploration, growth, and personal achievement. Supportive relationships help people thrive in this context by enabling them to embrace and pursue opportunities that enhance positive well-being, broaden and build resources, and foster a sense of purpose and meaning in life. This type of support is referred to as relational catalyst support because support providers can serve as active catalysts for thriving in this context. This form of support emphasizes that the promotion of thriving through life opportunities is its core purpose. The study authors submit that: “This perspective highlights the need for researchers to take a new look at social support by conceptualizing it as an interpersonal process with a focus on thriving.”
Feeney BC, Collins NL. “A New Look at Social Support: A Theoretical Perspective on Thriving Through Relationships.” Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2014 Aug 14. pii: 1088868314544222.