With Valentine’s Day upon us, we start thinking more about our significant other and the other special people we love in our lives. But have you ever stopped to consider that loving actually has physical benefits to our health and overall well-being? Take a look at how love and health are connected.
Human beings are designed to experience a connection with other human beings, so when we experience good relationships with others, especially positive romantic relationships, the benefits can be rather profound!
Interestingly, the love that science shows has such great benefits to our health does not particularly include the intense, passionate love that tends to be associated with new relationships. The butterfly stage is not where the majority of health benefits are seen. Instead, the familiar, comfortable, stable, and calm stage of relationships has significant and clear benefits to health. To reach this level where true health benefits are seen, the relationships must therefore be satisfying and happy to both partners as well as long-term.
The aspect of love that yields the health benefits is the sense of feeling connected to another person and the sense of importance, belonging, purpose, and security.
Some of the specific benefits seen by experiencing love include:
A Protected Heart: Studies indicate that those who are in good, strong, happy marriages have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease than those who are in stressful relationships or who are lonely.
Longer Life Expectancy: It has also been indicated by the National Longitudinal Mortality Study (tracking study participants since 1979) that married individuals live longer and also tend to have fewer heart attacks, a lower risk of getting cancer, and less chance of pneumonia.
Helps Fight Cancer: One study showed patients with ovarian cancer and a strong feeling of connection or a happy marriage relationship had stronger immune systems and higher activity of their “natural killer” white blood cells at the location of the tumor as compared with those individuals who did not have a strong connection or happy marriage relationship. That’s significant as these “natural killer” cells play a large roll in killing cancer cells.
Less Likely To Visit Doctor: Feeling love, care, and security boosts the immune system and helps maintain a well functioning body. An interesting study done by the Health and Human Services Department showed that married people were reported to have fewer doctor visits each year and on average had hospital stays much shorter in duration. The noted boost in immunity reduces the chance of catching a cold, and when a person in a strong and happy relationship does experience illness or injury, those in loving and supportive relationships heal more quickly.
Less Depression: According to another study, getting married and staying married in a happy relationship reduces depression in both sexes. Social isolation is linked with higher rates of depression, so being in a loving and secure relationship that provides a sense of belonging helps defeat depression.
Less Substance Abuse: It’s also demonstrated that those in loving relationships, especially marriage, are associated with a reduction in heavy drinking and substance abuse, particularly with young adults.
Lower Blood Pressure: Research indicates that happy marriages are linked with a lower blood pressure. One study concluded that married individuals had the best blood pressure values. However, unhappily married people had the worst blood pressure levels. This signifies the importance of the quality of the relationship and having a true feeling of love and belonging. And married couples in good relationships had lower blood pressure levels than singles in positive and strong relationships.
Decrease in Anxiety: Having a stable, long term, and happy relationship helps to decrease or eliminate anxiety, particularly with old and well-established relationships. MRI scans showed that those in strong, happy relationships had greater activity and activation in the part of the brain that’s responsible for the reward/pleasure response. In addition, those in well-established, long term relationships had less activation in the area of the brain associated with anxiety than those in new relationships.
Pain Relief: Another study showed people in a long-term and well-established relationship had more activity and activation in the area of the brain associated with control of pain. Another study validated this by finding that married couples tended to complain less about headaches and back pain.
Less Stress: Additionally, those in happy relationships tend to have lower levels of stress, likely due to the security and support that comes from the strong relationships.
Longer And Happier Life: Aside from the reasons noted above, research is demonstrating that those in strong and long-lasting relationships experience a longer and happier life. Science shows that there really is truth behind the old saying, “Money doesn’t buy happiness.”
To conclude, if you’re looking to get healthier and keep the doctor away, make sure to take time for romantic getaways, nice date nights, and enjoyable and supportive communication between you and your special someone!