The Relationships Remedy is a collection of true stories from the intersection of disease and healing, of social isolation and human connection.

Medical doctors are trained to interview new patients for a “social history,” which traditionally focuses on social habits: “Do you drink alcohol? Smoke cigarettes? Use illicit drugs?” But a growing body of research suggests that social relationships—with family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors—are just as influential to your health as drugs or medications. Specifically, it is perceived social isolation, or the subjective feeling of loneliness, that amps up inflammation and weakens your immune system, leaving you more susceptible to infections and illness. It is also genuine human connection—empathy, compassion, and inclusion—that can help prevent illness and lengthen your life.

My name is Kate Otto Chebly, and I am a medical doctor who believes that effectively treating my patients’ illnesses means understanding (and bolstering) their social support networks as well. On this blogI share heartfelt anecdotes from my patients’ lives*, interwoven with recent research about social isolation and human health. My goal is to encourage readers–whether you are the provider or recipient of medical care– to rethink your everyday social interactions, and in doing so improve your health and longevity.

*In all stories, I have changed the names and other identifying and demographic features of my patients in order to protect their identity and privacy.