10 Surprising Health Benefits of Love
Lower Blood Pressure, Fewer Colds, Better Stress Management Are Just the Beginning
3. Lower Blood Pressure
A happy marriage is good for your blood pressure. That’s the conclusion of a study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine. Researchers found happily married people had the best blood pressure, followed by singles. Unhappily married participants fared the worst.
Reis says this study illustrates a vital aspect of the way marriage affects health. “It’s marital quality and not the fact of marriage that makes a difference,” he tells WebMD. This supports the idea that other positive relationships can have similar benefits. In fact, singles with a strong social network also did well in the blood pressure study, though not as well as happily married people.
4. Less Anxiety
When it comes to anxiety, a loving, stable relationship is superior to new romance. Researchers at the State University of New York at Stony Brook used functional MRI (fMRI) 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.
“It’s the dopamine-reward area, the same area that responds to cocaine or winning a lot of money,” says Arthur Aron, PhD, one of the study’s authors. But there were striking differences between the two groups in other parts of the brain. In long-term relationships, “you also have activation in the areas associated with bonding ... and less activation in the area that produces anxiety.” The study was presented at the 2008 conference of the Society for Neuroscience.
5. Natural Pain Control
The fMRI study reveals another big perk for long-term couples -- more activation in the part of the brain that keeps pain under control. A CDC report complements this finding. In a study of more than 127,000 adults, married people were less likely to complain of headaches and back pain.
A small study published in Psychological Science adds to the intrigue. Researchers subjected 16 married women to the threat of an electric shock. When the women were holding their husband’s hand, they showed less response in the brain areas associated with stress. The happier the marriage, the greater the effect.