Scores of scientific studies have been conducted that prove a supportive romantic relationship, especially a strong marriage, can be extremely healthful at any age. In honor of Valentine’s Day, let’s reexamine the healing power of love with this list of health benefits that accompany the L word.
Better Physical Health
Love, particularly love that develops into a committed relationship, can have a significant positive impact on a person’s physical health. The benefits include decreased risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, improved immune health and faster recovery from illness. Happy relationships have also been proven to encourage healthful behavior like quitting smoking and staying fit.
Lowered Stress Levels
A distinct physiological process occurs when you think about the person you love. Daydreaming about the object of your affection triggers the release of dopamine, which makes you feel excited and happy. When you see them again, your brain pumps you with even more dopamine. More broadly, the support and companionship of a romantic relationship also helps people better manage challenging or stressful life events.
The positive feelings associated with oxytocin and dopamine production also help to improve mood. Research from 2010 suggests that people who are single tend to have higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, than people in committed relationships. In addition, sex has been found by researchers to improve both mental and physical health.
In one 2010 study, 15 adults in romantic relationships are subjected to moderate to high levels of thermal pain. The results show participants reported less pain both when completing a distraction task as well as when looking at a photo of their partner. The study also noted that looking at the photo activated the brain’s reward system, suggesting it lowers the perception of pain.
A Longer Life
A 2012 study of 225 adults who experienced coronary artery bypass grafting found evidence that love can lead to a longer life. People who were married when they had the surgery were 2.5 times more likely to be still living 15 years later. In addition, those who reported being highly satisfied in their marriage were 3.2 times more likely to be living than those who were less satisfied.
Thus, we have proven our hypothesis: The benefits of romantic love are powerful and real, and that’s a good thing! Happy Valentine’s Day!