Database Relationships in Laravel

Database Relationships in Laravel

This is a Series of Article to start the series visithere.

Database relationships define how data in one table is related to data in another table. In Laravel, relationships are defined within Eloquent model classes, allowing you to easily query related data and navigate through your application's data structure.

Understanding Relationships

In Laravel, database relationships empower developers to model complex data structures with ease. Let's delve into a hypothetical scenario: building an e-commerce application. We'll explore how to architect the relationships between User, Product, and Order entities, demonstrating different types of relationships and their practical usage.

  1. One-to-Many Relationship (User to Order):

    • A user can place multiple orders.

    • Each order belongs to one user.

  2. Many-to-Many Relationship (Order to Product):

    • An order can contain multiple products.

    • A product can be part of multiple orders.

  3. One-to-One Relationship (Order to ShippingAddress):

    • Each order has one associated shipping address.

Defining Relationships

Laravel supports several types of database relationships, each serving different purposes. Let's explore them with examples:

1. One-to-One Relationship

In a one-to-one relationship, each record in one table is associated with exactly one record in another table.

// User model
public function phone()
    return $this->hasOne(Phone::class);

// Phone model
public function user()
    return $this->belongsTo(User::class);

2. One-to-Many Relationship

In a one-to-many relationship, each record in one table can be associated with one or more records in another table.

// Post model
public function comments()
    return $this->hasMany(Comment::class);

// Comment model
public function post()
    return $this->belongsTo(Post::class);

3. Many-to-Many Relationship

In a many-to-many relationship, each record in one table can be associated with one or more records in another table, and vice versa.

// User model
public function roles()
    return $this->belongsToMany(Role::class);

// Role model
public function users()
    return $this->belongsToMany(User::class);

4. Has-Many-Through Relationship

This relationship allows you to define a relationship where a model has a relationship through another model.

// Country model
public function posts()
    return $this->hasManyThrough(Post::class, User::class);

5. Polymorphic Relationship

A polymorphic relationship is used when a model can belong to more than one other model on a single association.

// Comment model
public function commentable()
    return $this->morphTo();

// Post and Video models
public function comments()
    return $this->morphMany(Comment::class, 'commentable');

Utilizing Relationships

Once relationships are defined, you can easily query related data using Eloquent's expressive syntax. For example:

// Retrieve a user's phone number
$user = User::find(1);
$phone = $user->phone;

// Retrieve a post's comments
$post = Post::find(1);
$comments = $post->comments;

// Retrieve a user's roles
$user = User::find(1);
$roles = $user->roles;

// Eager loading to prevent N+1 query issues
$users = User::with('roles')->get();

// Querying through relationships
$country = Country::find(1);
$posts = $country->posts;

Eager Loading & The N+1 Query Problem

When you don't use eager loading in Laravel, you may encounter the "N+1 query problem." This problem occurs when your application executes one query to retrieve a list of records and then executes additional queries for each record to retrieve related data. This can lead to performance issues, especially with large datasets.

// User.php (Model)
class User extends Model
    public function posts()
        return $this->hasMany(Post::class);

// In a controller or somewhere else
$users = User::all();

foreach ($users as $user) {
    // This will execute an additional query for each user
    $posts = $user->posts;

In the above code, if you have 10 users, the application will execute the following queries:

  1. One query to retrieve all users:

     SELECT * FROM users;
  2. Ten additional queries to retrieve posts for each user:

     SELECT * FROM posts WHERE user_id = 1;
     SELECT * FROM posts WHERE user_id = 2;
     SELECT * FROM posts WHERE user_id = 3;
     SELECT * FROM posts WHERE user_id = 10;

This results in a total of 11 queries. As the number of users grows, the number of queries increases linearly, leading to significant performance issues.

Impact on Performance

The performance impact can be severe due to the following reasons:

  1. Increased Database Load: Executing a large number of queries puts more load on the database server.

  2. Longer Response Times: More queries mean longer response times, as each query has overhead.

  3. Inefficiency: Many queries retrieving small amounts of data repeatedly are less efficient than fewer queries retrieving larger amounts of data.

Solving the Problem with Eager Loading

Eager loading can solve this problem by retrieving the related data in a single query.

  1. Using Eager Loading:
// In a controller or somewhere else
$users = User::with('posts')->get();
  1. Generated Queries with Eager Loading:

With eager loading, Laravel will execute the following queries:

  1. One query to retrieve all users:

     SELECT * FROM users;
  2. One query to retrieve all posts for those users:

     SELECT * FROM posts WHERE user_id IN (1, 2, 3, ..., 10);

This results in a total of 2 queries regardless of the number of users, significantly improving performance.

Without eager loading, you risk running into the N+1 query problem, which can degrade your application's performance. Eager loading allows you to optimize the number of queries executed, leading to faster response times and a more efficient application. Here's a comparison for clarity:

  • Without Eager Loading:

    • N + 1 queries (1 query for users + N queries for posts)

    • Slower response times

    • Higher database load

  • With Eager Loading:

    • 2 queries (1 query for users + 1 query for posts)

    • Faster response times

    • Lower database load

By using eager loading, you ensure that your application remains performant and scalable.


Laravel's Eloquent ORM provides a powerful and intuitive way to define and work with database relationships. By understanding and utilizing these relationships effectively, you can build complex applications with ease, while maintaining a clean and expressive codebase. Whether you're working with simple one-to-one relationships or complex many-to-many relationships, Laravel's Eloquent has you covered.