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Check out these newly released Special Health Reports from Harvard Medical School
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You can't buy good health but you can buy good health information. Check out these newly released Special Health Reports from Harvard Medical School:

The health benefits of strong relationships, from Harvard Women’s Health Watch

For many of us, the holidays offer an opportunity to gather with family and friends, and participate in community and workplace activities. Social connections like these not only give us pleasure, they also influence our health. People who have satisfying relationships have been shown to be happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer. In contrast, having few social ties is associated with depression, cognitive decline, and premature death, reports the December 2010 issue of Harvard Women’s Health Watch.

Social connections help relieve harmful levels of stress, which can harm the heart's arteries, gut function, insulin regulation, and the immune system. Another "connected" way to ease stress is with caring behaviors, which trigger the release of stress-reducing hormones. This is encouraging news, because caring for others may be an easy health strategy to access.

When it comes to health, both the quality and quantity of relationships matter. In one study of midlife women, those who were in highly satisfying marriages had a lower risk for cardiovascular disease than those in less satisfying marriages. Other studies have linked negative interactions with family and friends with poorer health. Having a network of important relationships can also make a difference. One study concluded that dementia risk was lowest among individuals with a variety of satisfying contacts.

During the holidays, it’s easy to get caught up in the whirl of social activities and perhaps lose track of their deeper purpose: providing an opportunity for people to come together, notes Harvard Women’s Health Watch. This holiday season, take time to foster your most meaningful relationships. Choose activities that are most likely to bring joy to you and the people you care about. Delegate or discard tasks that eat into your time, or do them with family or friends.

Read the full-length article: "The health benefits of strong relationships"

Also in this issue of the Harvard Women's Health Watch

  • The health benefits of strong relationships
  • How to put your smartphone "on call"
  • In the journals: Grip strength and other physical measures predict lifespan
  • In the news: FDA approves the first oral drug for reducing multiple sclerosis relapses
  • What to make of the new warning on bisphosphonates
  • By the way, doctor: How much aspirin should I take to reduce my risk for colon cancer?
  • By the way, doctor: What can I do about chilblains?
  • Sources for smartphone apps

More Harvard Health News »

About Harvard Health Publications

Harvard Health Publications publishes four monthly newsletters--Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Women's Health Watch, Harvard Men's Health Watch, and Harvard Heart Letter--as well as more than 50 special health reports and books drawing on the expertise of the 8,000 faculty physicians at Harvard Medical School and its world-famous affiliated hospitals.