Emotion, Social Relationships, and Physical Health: Concepts, Methods, and Evidence for an Integrative Perspective

Timothy W. Smith, Karen Weihs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Emotional characteristics and processes are robust predictors of the development and course of major medical illnesses and premature mortality, as are a variety of indicators of the presence and quality of personal relationships. Despite clear evidence of close interconnection between these two domains of risk and protection, affective characteristics and relationships have largely been studied separately as influences on health. After a recent conference on integrative perspectives on emotions, relationships and health co-sponsored by the American Psychosomatic Society and the Society for Affective Science, the present review builds on prior calls for integration, related theory, and current research to outline what is known about the interconnection of these domains as it specifically relates to their overlapping influences on health. Areas of interest include the following: their interconnected roles over the course of development, which may inform current efforts to understand the influence of early life events on adult health; the parallel positive and negative factors in both domains that could have distinct influences on health; the role of emotion regulation in relationship contexts; and measurement, design, and analysis approaches to capture the dyadic and dynamic aspects of these interconnected influences on health. We conclude with a discussion of an emerging research agenda that includes the following: common biological foundations of affective and relationship processes, the cultural embeddedness of affective and relationship processes, the potential contribution of affective-relational processes to health disparities, and implications for intervention research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)681-693
Number of pages13
JournalPsychosomatic medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019


  • Emotion
  • Emotion regulation
  • Health
  • Marriage
  • Relationships
  • Social support
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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