Relationship Research for Stress Relief

Research Shows The Relationship Between Relationships and Stress

Relationship stress relief is one of the most effective and enjoyable kinds. Morsa Images/ Getty Images

The relationship between our social lives and our overall wellbeing is clear, and new studies are constantly providing more clues that show us how our relationships impact our stress levels and our lives as a whole. Whether it's marriage, friendship, family or love relationships, the people in our lives impact us, perhaps more than any other factor.

Relationship research shows the important impact that our relationships have on our health, wellbeing, and stress levels.

Over the years, I've written about individual studies that add to the overall picture of relationships and their impact on our stress levels; each study by itself gives only a piece of the puzzle, but together they add an important understanding of relationships and stress. Here, I've compiled summaries of each of the studies I've blogged in the past, and linked to them from the summaries, to provide you with more information you can use in creating less-stressed relationships, and using your relationships for stress relief.

Marriage Is A Stress Buffer

Despite what people may say (as with a relationship poll on this site), marriage can relieve stress. While virtually all long-term romantic relationships have their share of stresses, such relationships have an overall stress-relieving effect, this new research shows. Read more about the research about marriage as a stress reliever.

Optimists Are Luckier In Love

While many people don't want to get their hopes up, only to be greatly disappointed, research shows that optimists actually do have a reason to expect the best: they have more luck in the relationship department.

Recent research shows that optimists are more satisfied in their relationships, and tend to have greater increases in satisfaction over time. Learn more about the research on optimism and relationships, and find out what you can do to be luckier in love--and in life.

Social Support Protects Against Fatigue

Research shows that when you're sleep deprived, you may be more likely to get sick.

This particular study shows that social support can be a protective factor against this sickness. Read more about the research on the protective aspects of social support, and see what you can do to stay healthy.

Not All Social Support Is Equally Helpful

While we know that social support can generally be a great buffer against stress, not all types of social support are created equal. In fact, certain types of social support can actually cause more harm than good! Read more on types of social support to know what to do and what not to do to be optimally supportive, and to do no harm.

Kindness Is Contagious

When people see others doing nice things, they're more likely to be kind to others as well. This study had people watch uplifting videos of people helping others, and showed that they were then more likely than those who watched neutral clips to help researchers with their projects. Read more of this research on altruism and see more about how altruism can relieve stress.

We're Happier On The Weekends Because Of Loved Ones

It probably doesn't take a research study to prove that people are happier and more relaxed, have fewer aches and pains, and enjoy more vitality on the weekends. But this study shows that part of why this happens is that we are happier when we have more time to spend with loved ones.

Read more about the research on weekend wellbeing, and find ways to bring more 'weekend' into your week!

Relationships Bring More Lasting Happiness Than Do Lottery Winnings

You may already realize that money doesn't buy happiness, but the excitement of winning the lottery sometimes may seem more exciting than a warm hug. Fortunately, research can back up the feeling that most of us instinctively have: money brings temporary joy, but relationships bring long-term fulfillment. Read more on this research on lottery winners, and learn more about creating winning relationships in your life.

Hostility Can Sabotage Social Support

Discussing our problems with friends can help relieve stress.

However, when the giver or receiver of social support has a high level of general hostility, the stress-relieving benefits wane. Read more about the research on social support, and see what you can do to give and receive better support in your life.


Assad, Kimberly K., Donnellan, M. Brent, Conger, Rand D. Optimism: An enduring resource for romantic relationships.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 93(2), Aug, 2007. pp. 285-297.

Brickman P, Coates D, Janoff-Bulman R. (1978, August). Lottery winners and accident victims: is happiness relative? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36, 917- 27.

Brock RL, Lawrence E. Too much of a good thing: underprovision versus overprovision of partner support. Journal of Family Psychology, April 2009.

Claire M. Kamp Dush and Miles G. Taylor. Trajectories of Marital Conflict Across the Life Course: Predictors and Interactions With Marital Happiness Trajectories.

Journal of Family Issues, June 3, 2011; first published on June 3, 2011.

Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TW, Uchino BN. Can Hostility Interfere with the Health Benefits of Giving and Receiving Social Support? The Impact of Cynical Hostility on Cardiovascular Reactivity During Social Support Interactions Among Friends. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. June 27, 2008./p>

Maghout-Juratli S, Janisse J, Schwartz K, Arnetz BB. The causal role of fatigue in the stress-perceived health relationship: a MetroNet study. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. Mar-Apr, 2010. 

Newsom JT, Mahan TL, Rook KS, Krause N.Stable Negative Social Exchanges and Health. Health Psychology, January 2008.

Ryan, R., Bernstein, J., Warren Brown, K. The Weekend Effect. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, January 2010.

Schnall, S.; Roper, J.; and Fessler, D. Elevation Leads to Altruistic Behavior.Psychological Science, 2010.

Seligman, M. E. P. (2002) Authentic happiness: Using the new positive psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfillment. New York: Free Press.

Tsapelas, I., Aron, A. Psychological Science, April 14, 2009.