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Also, stressful relationships have been shown to dramatically increase the risk of clinical depression.

Studies consistently report that being married is associated with a lower risk of heart attack and better outcomes after heart surgery, especially for men. Stress and other underlying biological factors (including blood pressure) are thought to be involved, but the emotional and tangible support that partners provide is believed to play a role as well.

In a 2004 study of 38 couples, University of North Carolina researchers found that both men and women had higher blood levels of oxytocin (a hormone believed to ease stress and improve mood) after hugging.

The women also had lower blood pressure post-hug, and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Relationships can affect sleep in less direct ways, too.

Research shows that relationship insecurity or conflict is associated with poorer sleep.

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