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 in the field of social genomics reveals that social relationships—with family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors—can be 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.

The Relationships Remedy is a blog by medical doctors who believe that effectively treating a patient’s illness means understanding (and bolstering) their social support system. On this blog, we share heartfelt anecdotes from our own patients, as well as research and news from the field of social genomics. Our goal is to encourage our readers–whether you are the provider or recipient of medical care–a chance to rethink your everyday social interactions, and in doing so improve your health and longevity.

In all patient stories on this blog, we change the name and other identifying and demographic features of our patients in order to protect their identity and privacy.