10 Surprising Health Benefits of Love
Lower Blood Pressure, Fewer Colds, Better Stress Management Are Just the Beginning
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.
6. Better Stress Management
If love helps people cope with pain, what about other types of stress? Aron says there is evidence of 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, you can cope better,” he tells WebMD. If you lose your job, for example, it helps emotionally and financially if a partner is there to support you.
7. Fewer Colds
We’ve seen that loving relationships can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression -- a fact that may give the immune system a boost. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that people who exhibit positive emotions are less likely to get sick after exposure to cold or flu viruses. The study, published in Psychosomatic Medicine, compared people who were happy and calm with those who appeared anxious, hostile, or depressed.
8. Faster Healing
The power of a positive relationship may make flesh wounds heal faster. Researchers at Ohio State University Medical Center gave married couples blister wounds. The wounds healed nearly twice as fast in spouses who interacted warmly compared with those who demonstrated a lot of hostility toward each other. The study was published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.