It’s love great? Sure, you know the basics about the birds and the bees and the feelings you get when you are falling in love, but do you really know what goes on in your body and your mind when you fall in love or physically show love? Scientists have long been interested to show that love gives us health benefits beyond smiles, butterflies and fast heartbeats.
Some of the benefits of love may not only surprise you, but inspire you to show a little more love and gratitude this holiday season. Below are eight benefits of love and reasons why it’s important to make room for your love life.
1. Protects your heart
Married couples don’t just have a lower risk of heart problems, they also have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Researchers studied records from a database of more than 3.5 million people, all of which had been evaluated for cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other risk factors for heart disease. Researchers also took into account risk factors such as age, gender and race.
- Married men and women had 5% lower odds of any vascular disease
- Widowed men and women had 3 percent higher odds
- Divorced men and women had 5 percent higher odds of any vascular disease
It is hard to correlate a direct cause and effect between marriage and the heart, but the study also suggests that couples look out for one another and those with a spouse may be more likely to listen to a doctors orders.
2. May lead to a longer life
The National Longitudinal Mortality Study, which has been tracking more than a million subjects since 1979, shows that married people live longer. Another study conducted at UNC included more than 4,800 men and women born in the 1940s.
- Individuals 40+ who had never been married faced more than double the risk for death during midlife
- Individuals 40+ who were previously married when entering midlife were also found to face elevated risk for death
Some studies suggest that being married relieves a lot of the stress we experience in life. Less stress leads to better health.
3. May help catch and beat cancer
University of Iowa researchers found that ovarian cancer patients with a strong sense of connection to others and satisfying relationships had more vigorous “natural killer” cell activity at the site of the tumor than those who didn’t have those social ties.
Another study found a similar correlation when results showed married people in the study were 20% less likely than people who were single, widowed or divorced to die of the disease. They were also more likely to catch their cancer at an early stage and to get appropriate treatment for their disease.
4. Can boost your immune system
A study conducted byRonald Glazer and Jan Kiecolt-Glaser suggests happy couples who engage in positive resolutions when fighting have higher functioning immune systems that those who displayed negative behavior during fights. Those who argued in a more loving, positive way had higher immediate immune function. One example of this is engaging in conversation without resorting to bickering.
5. Can keep you physically fit
Studies show that couples who exercise together tend to work out harder and more regularly than those who workout solo. Studies show:
- 1/2 of people who exercise alone quit the program after 1 year or less
- 2/3 of people who exercise with a loved one stick to it
- People work 12-15% harder when exercising with a romantic partner
Additionally, sex itself can burn calories. According to a study done by the University of Quebec, men burned and average of 4.2 calories a minute during sex while women burned 3.1.
6. Can reduce feelings of pain
Studies show holding the hand of significant others can actually minimize feelings of pain. One study examines individuals that experience electrical shocks and found that holding someone’s hand alleviated some of the pain and perception of pain. Additionally, the study found that feelings of pain decreased more in women who were in happily married and holding their husband’s hand.
7. May make you look younger
The healthy glow of being in love is not just a myth. Endorphins release by your brain increase blood flow to the skin, keeping it looking healthy and soft. Love may also decrease your stress levels, in turn decreasing the cortisol levels in your body which cause stress-induced acne.
8. Can help your mental well-being
There are numerous studies on romance’s blissful effects on the brain. Feelings of love trigger the release of dopamine in the brain which affects pleasure, motivation, optimism and energy. Hugging and hand holding trigger the release of oxytocin, a hormone that can lower stress, reduce blood pressure, improve your mood and increase tolerance for pain.
Finally, a study published by the journal Family and Relationships revealed that feeling appreciated by a spouse was the most consistent predictor of how happy people were in their marriages.
Be sure to show your love and appreciation this holiday season- the benefits may just be in your favor!