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This National Siblings Day, thank your siblings for boosting your health

This National Siblings Day, thank your siblings for boosting your health
Posted at 7:50 AM, Apr 10, 2024

Happy Siblings Day! If you have a brother or sister — and you probably do, since 80% of Americans have at least one sibling — then you know how important this relationship can be. While your parents, partners or friends might enter and exit your life at various times, your siblings likely will be around for the duration. And that’s great news, because many studies show that having one or more siblings is good for your health.

Siblings and Mental Health

More than three quarters of people with siblings report having a close relationship with them as adults. That’s a positive finding, because having a sibling in your corner can boost your mood and alleviate loneliness. When researchers surveyed older adults for a study published in Journal of Family Psychology in 2019, they found that siblings in warm relationships provided a strong source of emotional support.

Being able to talk through issues with close siblings can be a reliable comfort during challenging times. In one study of Latina women during pregnancy, those who communicated frequently with siblings during pregnancy exhibited fewer depressive symptoms.

Siblings and Physical Activity

It’s only natural that a parent would be more likely to send a child outside to play (or to walk to and from school) if they have a sibling to do it with. And research bears this out.

In a synthesis of previous studies, researchers identified a link between having siblings and being more active in general. Susan B. Sisson, a professor of nutritional sciences at University of Oklahoma Health Sciences in Oklahoma City, was one of the experts analyzing the findings. While Sisson acknowledged that there are numerous factors that affect fitness levels, like genetics, she did note why a sibling connection would matter.

“Genetics doesn’t necessarily influence whether or not you have somebody to kick the ball back to you,” she told The American Heart Association.

Siblings and Diet

Sisson also co-authored a study on the eating habits of children with siblings versus only children. The 2019 study, which contrasted the habits of 43 children with siblings with 27 only children, showed a link between having a sibling and having a healthier diet.

There are a number of possible reasons for this. Having just one child makes eating out at fast food restaurants more affordable (and that’s not great for your health). On the other hand, the more children parents have, the more likely they are to make big family meals at home. This tends to lead to healthier eating than the grab-and-go eating habits that smaller families can adopt.

Some studies have even found that people with siblings are slightly less likely to become obese.

Brothers and sisters

How to Encourage Sibling Relationships in Your Children

You may be reading this and thinking, “But my kids are always fighting!” If so, take heart. Sibling rivalry and jealousy are extremely common during childhood. Statistically, over half of all child siblings are more likely to argue with one another than to peacefully coexist.

But even this may be a somewhat positive aspect of having a sibling. It gives you an opportunity to learn conflict resolution from a young age. And depending on the nature of the arguments, it can help both the child and the parent learn what makes the child tick. When you explore the root causes of their conflicts, you can all learn and grow.

Of course, each sibling relationship is unique and personal. Whatever your bond may be like with your siblings, you have probably benefited from it in some way. So why not pick up the phone and wish your sibling a great day?

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