While most research is done around couples in intimate relationships, there’s no reason to believe that the rewards of being loved by a parent, friend or sibling would be any different. Here are just a few of the findings that seem to show that giving and receiving love can be good for your health.
Love keeps the doctor away
According to Harry Reis, PhD, co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Human Relationships, one of the most striking findings is that people in quality relationships visit the doctor less and have shorter in-hospital stays.
“Nobody quite knows why loving relationships are good for health,” Reis says. “The best logic for this is that human beings have been crafted to live in closely knit social groups. When that is not happening, the biological systems ... get overwhelmed.”
Another theory is that people in good relationships take better care of themselves. Your partner may keep you honest in your oral hygiene or a best friend could motivate you to eat healthier foods. Over time, these good habits translate to fewer illnesses.
Researchers at the State University of New York at Stony Brook found that being in a long-term loving relationship is far less stressful than a new romance. The study used functional MRI scans to look at the brains of people in love. They compared passionate new couples with long-term couples and found that both groups showed activation in a part of the brain associated with dopamine levels, which is the same area that responds to rewards and things like winning a lot of money and achieving a goal.
What was also significant was that in long-term relationships, the study also found an increase in the areas associated with bonding, with less activation in the area that produces anxiety.
Better Stress Management
This one is a no brainer. Having someone to offer support and listen to and comfort you during tough times is a very important part of overall stress management. If you’re facing a stressor, like losing your job, and you’ve got someone who loves you, you can cope better because you have someone to emotionally and financially support you.
We’ve seen that loving relationships can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression -- a fact that may give your immune system a much-needed 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.
Longer, happier life
It may seem obvious that one of love’s greatest benefits is joy, but it also can lead to greater longevity. A growing body of research shows that married people live longer. In one of the largest studies ever to focus on the effects of marriage on mortality it was found that people who had never been married were 58% more likely to die than married people.
And if living happily is just as important to you, you’ll be pleased to know that a study in the Journal of Family Psychology showed that happiness depends more on the quality of family relationships than on the level of income. And so we have scientific evidence that, at least in some ways, the power of love outweighs the power of money.