Humans are wired for connection, and when we cultivate good relationships, the rewards are immense. This isn’t just related to romantic love. Any kind of calm, stable forms of love yield clear health benefits. This could include love in a marriage, partnership, parent/child relationship, or a friendship. The key is to feel connected to other people, feel respected and valued by others, and feel a sense of belonging. Here are research-backed ways that love and health are linked:
Researchers at the State University of New York at Stony Brook used functional MRI scans to look at the brains of people in love. They compared passionate new couples with strongly connected long-term couples. Both groups showed activation in a part of the brain associated with intense love. However, those in long-term relationships also had activation in the areas associated with bonding and less activation in the areas that produce anxiety.
Natural Pain Control and Stress Management
In a study of more than 127,000 adults, married people were less likely to complain of headaches and back pain. There is also a link between social support and stress management. If you’re facing a stressor and you’ve got the support of someone who loves you, it’s easier for you to cope. If you’re away from someone you love, thinking about them, talking to them on the phone, or even texting with them can help conjure positive feelings that have a similar effect.
Loving relationships can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, a fact that can give your immune system a boost. People who exhibit positive emotions are less likely to get sick after exposure to cold or flu viruses. It’s also been found that wounds heal nearly twice as fast in spouses who interact warmly compared with those who demonstrated a lot of hostility toward each other.
Love Lengthens Life
Couples in happy, stable relationships live longer. There are both material and emotional reasons for greater longevity. On a practical level, being in a supportive relationship means looking after one another. They’ll remind each other to exercise, eat right, and stay current on their doctor’s visits. On an emotional level, loving support and social engagement help increase longevity. People with strong social relationships, including family and friends, have a 50% increased likelihood of a longer life.