Having a wide family network is essential for psychological wellbeing according to research published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The research, which looked at 6,500 Britons found the midlife wellbeing of both men and women seems to depend on having a strong family network with men's wellbeing particularly strongly impacted by having a smaller kinship group.

Study lead Monika Merkes, Honorary Associate from the Australian Institute for Primary Care & Ageing at La Trobe University said: "It's interesting that this study, like others before, has found that being partnered or married is more beneficial to men than women.

Dr Merkes said the study did not go into possible reasons for the male preference for family, but the study suggests that mid-aged women's caring role for older relatives and their own children or grandchildren adds stress rather than conferring psychological benefits.

She pointed to a recent Australian study, which examined relationship quality and levels of depression and anxiety that found that only good-quality relationships bestowed mental health benefits over remaining single.

Richard Fletcher, senior lecturer in the Family Action Centre at the University of Newcastle wants to find out more information on why those studied had not formed their own family network.

"They [the researchers] don't differentiate on unpartnered people whether they're separated divorced or single," he said. "You can imagine your networks would be reduced a bit if you were divorced."

The study found one in seven had no contacts with relatives outside their immediate household, and around one in ten said they had no friends.

"This study adds support to previous studies that show being socially connected is good for wellbeing and mental health. In this context, it is of great concern that about one in ten people report having no friends at all," Dr Merkes added.

The research remains open to some question particularly on the subject of the number of relatives with whom the research participants meet once a month or more.

Before calling for more research to be conducted in this area, Dr Merkes asked: "Does this refer to face-to-face meetings only, or are contacts via electronic means, such as telephone, Skype or social media also included? I assume it's the former. But what about people whose family members live overseas and who keep in regular contact electronically?"

For more on mental health visit our sister sitewww.mentalhealthtoday.co.uk

Posted 24/08/2012 by richard.hook@pavpub.com