As Valentine’s Day Approaches, Americans Feel Good About Their Social Connections, Value Friendships for Mental Health Impact
Men and Women Differ Slightly on Boosts of Romantic Relationships
Washington, D.C. — As heart-shaped candy boxes line the aisles of pharmacies and grocery stores nationwide, the majority of Americans (62%) said their friends had a mostly positive impact on their mental health, ahead of their children (48%), their extended family (47%), their spouse or partner (46%) and their parents (42%), among others.
Two thirds of Americans (66%) find it very or somewhat easy to make friends, and most are satisfied with the number (72%) and quality (76%) of social connections in their lives. The majority (63%) also said that the COVID-19 pandemic neither strengthened nor weakened their social ties.
These findings are from the latest Healthy Minds Monthly survey from the American Psychiatric Association, focused on relationships. The poll was fielded by Morning Consult between Jan. 18-20, 2023, among 2,202 adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points.
“Our social connections are a big part of what makes us human, and they are important to mental health,” said APA President Rebecca W. Brendel, M.D., J.D. “It is encouraging to see that many Americans recognize the importance of maintaining healthy relationships. Even so, about one in five people have lost connection as a consequence of the pandemic, making it even more important to reach out to others – it is one of the most mentally healthy things we can do, for ourselves and the people in our lives.”
When asked which people represented the top three most important relationships in their lives, Americans responded:
- Their children (56%)
- Their spouse or partner (54%)
- Their parents (50%)
- Their siblings (38%)
- Their friends (36%)
- Extended family (21%)
- Relationships from a religious group (6%)
- Work colleagues (5%)
- Other relationships, such as from a social club or sports league (4%)
Differences emerged in how men and women ranked the top two options on this list with men (59%) more likely more likely to rank their spouse or partner as among their top three than women (51%), and women (64%) more likely to say so about their children than men (47%).
The Mental Health Benefits of Relationships
The survey also explored what Americans thought were the top three specific mental health benefits of friendships and romantic relationships. They included:
|Mental Health Benefit||Percentage for Friends||Percentage for Romantic Partners|
|Positive support and encouragement||53%||49%|
|Someone to talk to||50%||42%|
|Comfort and familiarity||42%||45%|
|Someone to vent to when upset||34%||26%|
|None of the above||8%||13%|
While men and women agreed on most categories, they diverged on some of the benefits of romantic relationships. Men were more likely than women to say a top mental health benefit of romantic partners or spouses was fun (45% of men versus 20% of women) and that relationships gave them someone to talk to (46% men versus 39% of women).
“We need the people in our lives that listen to us, can cheer us on, and can provide comfort when things go wrong,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “Thinking about the positive aspects of our social connections can inspire us to reach out to our friends and families, no matter where we find them. The rewards are wired in those moments.”
American Psychiatric Association
The American Psychiatric Association, founded in 1844, is the oldest medical association in the country. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 38,000 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and research of mental illnesses. APA's vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. For more information, please visit www.psychiatry.org.