Social Study: Siblings and Your Health

Health Benefits of Siblings

April 10 is National Sibling Day. Our brothers and sisters can be a real pain while we’re growing up. But did you know that siblings come with some health benefits, even after you both leave home?

Here are some of the ways that having a sibling can be good for your health:

Research suggests that having a sibling may help children develop sympathy. Researchers examined the relationship between siblings in more than 300 families and found having a quality relationship with a brother or sister may promote altruism in teens, especially boys. Other researchers at Brigham Young University found that siblings, especially sisters, give each other a mental health boost in ways that parents don't.

Siblings are a crucial part of a child's development, teaching one another socialization skills and the rules of dominance and pecking order. Research found that siblings who felt more loved and safe were more likely to help others. Also, being a sibling means there are many opportunities to learn sharing and cooperating, which only helps when entering the real world.

Some studies purport biological reasons for the intensity of the sibling bond. Siblings share half their genes, which evolutionary biologists say should be motivation enough for joint dedication. You share a connection through DNA, and this can be the reason why you are so loyal to each other.

Research tells us that if one sibling becomes obese, the other sibling’s likelihood of obesity increases to 40 percent.  The same applies to bad habits. People whose siblings smoke are more likely to smoke themselves. The good news is that the closeness of the sibling bond means if you change a habit you are likely to be able to convince your sibling to follow suit.

Not only can siblings boost mental health and physical fitness, but strong social ties may help you live longer. On average, those with poor social connections died about 7.5 years earlier than those with solid bonds to friends and family. That's about the same difference in length of life as the gap between smokers and non-smokers. This may be because caring about our friends and family inspires us to take better care of ourselves or it may be because we turn to loved ones to provide us with support when we're sick or stressed.

For whatever reason, keeping that strong connection with our siblings could help us live a longer, happier, and healthier life.​

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