A study by a team at University of Otago which was published recently in the British Journal of Psychiatry examined 1,000 people living in New Zealand to assess the health benefits, or hazards, of long term relationships. The results show that men and women who are in relationships for longer than five years are less likely to be depressed, to consider or attempt suicide, or to be dependent on alcohol or drugs.
Lead researcher Dr Sheree Gibb suggests “partner relationships are protective for mental health, with the protective effect increasing as the length of the relationship increases. This could be because emotional support and financial stability tends to increase over the course of a relationship.”
The legal status (married or cohabiting) of the relationship does not make any difference, but the length of time the couple has been together does. Relationships that last longer than five years are associated with the most health benefits, including substntially lower rates of mental health problems.
At the age of 30, 16 per cent of people who were not in a relationship showed symptoms of depression along with 23 per cent of people who had been in a relationship for less than two years. The rate was just nine per cent among people who had been in a relationship lasting more than five years.
This may of course, simply indicate that people with mental health problems find it more difficult to sustain long term relationships and that they need more support in this area if they are to have a chance of benefiting form the mental and physical positives associated with stable relationships