Relationships evolve over the course of a person’s life. Camaraderie with coworkers and neighbors may shift and change as people age and assume new jobs or locations. Likewise, relationships with friends and family members also ebb and flow based on circumstances and maturity. It is thought that positive relationships with others enhance physical and psychological well-being. In fact, research suggests that healthy and supportive relationships can provide protection from stress and illness. But little attention has been given to the effects of relationships as people enter their later years in life.
Unlike relationships forged in early and mid-life, relationships maintained in older adulthood tend to be based on mutual respect and are valued for their positive benefits. However, relationships with some individuals, such as family members, may still present stress and conflict. To better understand how these ambivalent relationships compare to entirely negative relationships with respect to health in later life, Karen S. Rook of the Department of Psychology and Social Behavior at the University of California recently conducted a study examining the influence of relationships on physical and psychological health in a sample of 916 elderly adults.