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Health-Promoting Relationships

There is a highly emotional quality to abundance that pertains to the interpersonal and relational wellbeing of all individuals. Health-promoting relationships not only offer abundance through greater relationship stability but also provide the means to endure physical hardship by creating vast emotional support. This is the foundation or infrastructure of complete health and wellness and reinforces the numerous aspects of abundance that are sought after in one's life. 

Context within NORA

Relationships to needs

Apart from the bare necessities of life, health is one necessity that is greatly emphasized in all parts of the world, yet it can easily slip away in times of crisis. Health-promoting relationships help people to counter such an effect and to maintain their mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing.

Be it emotional, financial, or even physical security and/or safety, good health is one of the first, and easiest, aspects of life to lose in a time of stress. In the same vein, interpersonal relationships must promote health through the offering of security and safety, especially in the most basic of ways. 

Going hand-in-hand with security, health-promoting relationships begin in the shelter/housing of every individual, linked with a sense of being at home. The first  human interactions with parents or caretakers occur in the home, which is thus crucial to create a healthy environment for growth. Health-promoting relationships are in fact one aspect of supportive relationships more broadly.

Health-promoting relationships rely heavily on peer to peer interaction as well as mentor-type relationships; any situation presents opportunities to learn, especially in terms of understanding that what works well for one person may or may not be appropriate for another.

There are innumerable careers, special skills, and passions represented within a community that provide a vastly diverse environment conducive to growth and the meeting of relational needs and provide scope for an array of meaningful livelihoods.

As an aspect of life that no one seems to ever have enough of, time factors in both commitment and sincerity when it comes to health-promoting relationships. These relationships are not created overnight and require dedication and time to cultivate and maintain.

As mentioned before, a diverse community provides unique circumstances to form health-promoting relationships which are oftentimes coupled with a connection to a deeper self-awareness and/or transcendent unity found through contemplative/spiritual connection


Relationships to resources

Resources such as foodair, and water are of course vital to the basic survival and health of any individual. It is arguable that health-promoting relationships — or any worthwhile interpersonal interaction — would be negligible without the presence of such basic resources.

Ideals and concepts such as lovevaluesinformation, and trust are all vital aspects of healthy relationships and are considered intangible resources. In addressing trust specifically, it is nearly impossible to experience a fulfilled life without the assistance, input, and support of others; however, all of these features involve a transparency of self that can only come through mutual trust and constant consideration/empathy of all individuals involved.

While health-promoting relationships do not specifically rely on personal property, land is needed to build community wellness clinics, mental health centers, and other public service locations to aid the community. Such physical facilities, as well as the communications infrastructure that we increasingly rely on in a digital age, are examples of physical and human-made assets that have become essential and generally beneficial in forming health-promoting relationships. Rarely does any individual have to be truly alone for any extended period of time; personal contact is only a few button-pushes away. On the other hand, if connections via computers, call phones and the like take the place of direct face-to-face encounters, they can become problematic.


Relationships to organizational forms

The primary organizational form used in health-promoting relationships is the community solidarity cluster that provides the context for give and take in terms of the expectations of an individual in his or her relationships and for the actions to promote and perpetuate healthy relationships within a community. 

There is also an important level of self-provisioning within health-promoting relationships because it is up to the individual's motivation whether or not to invest time and resources into a particular relationship. While such an attitude may greatly affect one's interpersonal interactions, the health of an individual is also crucial in their ability– and capability– to form and sustain such a relationship.


Understanding current patterns of abundance and scarcity

Different cultures have unique approaches and ideals regarding health-promoting relationships and their importance among members of the community. Likewise, many renowned psychologists and health professionals have gone to great lengths in studying the impact that supportive relationships have on the health of an individual. The complexity of human interaction, stages of maturity and development, and socioeconomic status create a compounding effect on the analysis of health-promoting relationships; yet there is common ground among all of these features that proves intriguing and insightful.

Types of health-promoting relationships

Health begins at birth in the arms of loved ones, parents and/or caretakers who work to provide a safe and wholesome environment in which the child can thrive. The most basic, yet most profound, relationship is the parent-child relationship. In a study of Hispanic adolescents interviewed once at the ages of 15-16 and a second time at the ages of 17-18, it was found that while stressful life events were internalized by nearly all individuals, the children with a stronger parent-adolescent relationship were less likely to externalize the stress by exhibiting behavioral issues (Oliva 137). This is one example of the impact that non home-related stressors can have on the physical and emotional wellbeing of an adolescent along with the wellbeing of the parent.

As children grow and enter the educational system, there comes into play another key relationship: the teacher-student interaction. Teachers have a unique opportunity to mentor, guide, set an example for, and instruct young people in hopes that they will create a brighter hope and future for the coming generations. Instructors can indeed play a similar role to that of parents in the home among large groups of students. In a study of teacher and student interactions at National University in Costa Mesa, California, it was found that a safer educational environment led to more respectful and cooperative relationships between the pupils and the professors as well as increasing productivity and integrative learning and teaching styles (Anderson 134). Joyce Walker at the University of Minnesota, a researcher of adolescent stress and depression, lists the top eight stressors of a young person's life, stating that, "These events are centered in the two most important domains of a teenager's life: home and school" (2013). Stress has serious consequences on any individual's life, especially on the mental health during paramount developmental years, and can be counteracted with the help of a health-promoting student-teacher relationship.

Another very useful health-promoting relationship is that between a mentor and a mentee. It is often expected that a mentor is older than his/her mentee, but this is not always the case. Peer mentoring as well as adult-child mentoring are equally common and oftentimes equally as effective. The American Psychological Association defines mentoring as "an individual with expertise that can help develop the career of a mentee" (2006:5). This definition can also be expanded to encompass many relationships meant to develop the professional skills of an individual. Within a mentoring situation, both the quality of the mentor-mentee relationship as well as the lasting effects of the mentor program play into the health of the individual. A poor mentor relationship could cause increased stress which, as mentioned before, may lead to depression or anxiety; however, this is not the only negative, health-related effect that a poor mentor relationship can have. At times the mentee may feel ill-prepared, and depending on the severity, then there is a chance that he/she will not have fully developed the necessary skills to properly cope in the professional world. This may affect the income of the individual and thus their stability and security as well as their overall wellbeing.

There are countless other relationships that can be health promoting as well, such as sibling relationships, peer friendships, romantic relationships, pastor-congregation relationships, as well as extended familial relationships. All of these require different skills and mechanisms for success as well as providing both positive and negative health consequences depending on the state of the relationship.

Common relationship ideals pertaining to needs

Maslow's hierarchy of needs
here to view the hierarchy)

Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist, theorized about the importance of innate needs in a human's life and developed a hierarchy based on those needs in relation to motivation (McLeod 2007). Working up from the bottom tier, which is occupied by the most basic needs (physiological and biological), each tier above is considered more complex and abstract, thus suggesting the importance of satisfying one group of needs before moving up to the next level (McLeod 2007). With a focus on health, it should be noted that health-promoting relationships fall under the "social needs" tier and require the satisfaction of the two tiers beneath.

Although the concept of this hierarchy seems rather simple, many complexities arise as one examines its applications to health and health-promoting relationships. At some stages in development, such as infancy, an individual may be physically incapable of attaining its needs and thus relies greatly on an outside source (such as the mother). As mentioned in the previous sections, the parent-child relationship is of utmost importance in overall health for a child. In this case, food, love, shelter, and protection are all very crucial needs that depend on both the healthiness of the parents as well as their sustaining of the child. Although a child is likely unable to obtain the self-actualization, the pinnacle, of Maslow's proposed hierarchy, those basic needs must be met before other needs, such as social needs, can also be attained. Conversely, the child will die for lack of food and other necessities if the social care is withheld.

Health-promoting traits in a relationship

Psychologist Maya Elyashkevich presents eight ways in which an individual can create a more supportive relational environment, all of which pertain perfectly to health-promoting relationships. Instead of discussing all eight, the focus can be on the big three that seem to encompass all the others: Empathy, emotional maturity, and emotional honesty (2013). While there are countless traits that individuals seek out in terms of a mate, these basic traits are most conducive to promoting health within a given relationship. The introduction of this page alludes to an emotional infrastructure that allows for fortitude and strong will during trying times. The traits listed above are the traits which provide the necessary infrastructure and support to keep an individual healthy and, in the most difficult of times, allow for survival. 
For example, in times of a large natural disaster, such as a detrimental hurricane or earthquake, an entire community's physical wellness as well as emotional stability are put on the line. With empathy from surrounding communities and friends along with the maturity to handle such a situation, survivors and helpers are able to provide their strength in times of others' weakness. This is what abundance within health-promoting relationships is all about: Not only are lives changed, but they are saved and spurred on toward healing and growth so that they may go out and do the same for another.

Scarcity within health-promoting relationships

At times it may be difficult to understand the term scarcity in the relational setting, but it can be easily put into perspective with a few key points. A major factor in scarcity of health-promoting relationships is fear; there is fear of failure, fear of judgment, fear of disappointment, fear of economic downfall, just to name a few. All of these fears combined create an environment of apathy, intentional ignorance, and general inaction and such an environment is not conducive to relational growth. Other factors may also contribute to scarcity, such as a lack of self-awareness, and lack of resources that individuals can freely utilize to broaden their relationship horizons to form the most optimal health-promoting relationships possible. Other scarcities may come from less controllable circumstances, such as lack of parental guidance or sibling relationships, clinical depression or anxiety, and the general self-centered view of society. With so much negativity at odds with the promotion of health in relationships, it is not difficult to see why stress, depression, ulcers, and other physical ailments plague modern culture despite our best efforts to stay connected and grounded.

Approaches for greater abundance

When dealing with unique interactions among humans as well as an abstract topic of relationships, it is easy to get lost among the countless variables. Creating a greater abundance of health-promoting relationships involves the effort of all parties involved. A few ideas for greater abundance are listed below and can apply on the community level or that of an individual seeking a one-on-one relationship for improved health.

Health Commons

Public mental health programs

Public counseling clinics

Parenting courses and programs

Family courses and programs

PsyCommons: see member link below!


Member Links

Denis Postle: PsyCommons



American Psychological Association (2006). "Introduction to Mentoring: A guide for Mentors and Mentees."  2-

14. (Retrieved on the web on December 1, 2013).

Anderson, L. E., J. Carta-Falsa (2002). Factors that Make Student and Faculty Relationships Effective.” College

          Teaching 50.4: 134-138.

Elyashkevich, M. 2013. "Healthy Relationships: Helpful Tips for Creating Supportive Relationships." (Retrieved 

on the web on September 12, 2013).

McLeod, S. 2007. "Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.Simply Psychology. (Retrieved on the web on 

November 6, 2013).

Oliva, A., J. M. Jiménez, and ÁParra. 2009. "Protective Effect of Supportive Family Relationships And The

          Influence Of Stressful Life Events On Adolescent Adjustment." Anxiety, Stress & Coping 22.2: 137-152.

Walker, Joyce. 2013. "Adolescent Stress and Depression." University of Minnesota Extension. (Retrieved on the 

web on December 1, 2013).




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