What’s Love Got to do With Health? (you might be surprised)

The Beatles got it right when they sang, “I need somebody to love.” In an extraordinary and beneficial way, love and health are intricately entwined. Human beings are pre-wired for connection. The rewards of warm and positive relationships are enormous and even somewhat surprising. Let’s take a closer look at the remarkable impacts of love.

What kind of love has the most benefits?

Contrary to what you might think, it is not intense and passionate love that triggers the benefits but rather a calm and enduring love.

Here is what Harry Reis, Ph.D. and co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Human Relationships, has to say about love.

“There’s no evidence that the intense, passionate stage of a new romance is beneficial to health. People who fall in love say it feels wonderful and agonizing at the same time. All those ups and downs can be a source of stress. It takes a calmer, more stable form of love to yield clear health benefits. There is very nice evidence that people who participate in satisfying, long-term relationships fare better on a whole variety of health measures.”

Although most evidence has been focused on love within marriage, Reis believes that the benefit may extend to other close relationships such as those with parents or friends. The key to reaping love’s benefits are held in feelings of connection, respect, and value. 

“Nobody quite knows why loving relationships are good for health,” Reis says. “The best logic for this is that human beings have been crafted by evolution to live in closely knit social groups. When that is not happening, the biological systems…get overwhelmed.”

Here are some research-backed reasons to just what love has to do with it!

People in loving relationships make fewer trips to the doctor

A large volume of research reviewed by the Health and Human Services Department made some striking discoveries. According to their review, married people visit the doctor and have shorter average hospital stays than persons who are unmarried.

It is possible that people in close relationships simply take better care of themselves. For instance, a spouse may help you stay in good shape and take preventative measures with your health. Your best friend can help you stay on track with your fitness goals. Both of these actions can reduce the number of illnesses and doctor visits.

Getting married and staying married reduces depression

The report by the Health and Humans Services found that people who got married and stayed married have less chance of developing depression. This truth is not surprising since research clearly shows that being socially isolated increases your risk of developing depression. Another interesting find is that people in a healthy marriage have reduced drinking and drug abuse, especially in younger adults.

Loving and stable relationships reduce anxiety

If you are single and anxious, being involved in a serious, stable relationship may be better than valium for reducing anxiety. Researchers at the State University of New York at Stony Brook discovered that functional MRI scans revealed the truth about people in love. When scans from persons in new and passionate relationships were compared to those from strongly connected couples that had been together for quite some time, they discovered something highly interesting. In both groups, the scans showed activation in part of the brain connected to intense love. This area of the brain is the dopamine-reward center that is the same area that responds to cocaine or winning a big lottery. However, there were some distinct differences between the two groups relative to different parts of the brain. Those persons in long and stable relationships showed activation in a part of the brain connected to bonding. When this location lights up, anxiety levels drop.

Loving relationships help to lower blood pressure

According to a study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, being in a happy marriage is good for your blood pressure. Researchers found that people who were in a happy marriage had the best blood pressure, followed by single people with unhappily married individuals bringing up the rear.

Being in true love may help reduce pain

Could being in a stable and happy relationship decrease pain? Researchers say yes, yes, yes! In a study of over 127,000 adults, married people complained far less than singles about headaches and back pain. Another study, published in Psychological Science, found that women who were put under the threat of an electrical shock showed less activity in the area of the brain responsible for stress when they were holding their husband’s hand.


People in happy relationships  heal faster

Researchers at Ohio State revealed that positive relationships help flesh wounds heal faster. Married couples who were given blister wounds healed almost twice as fast with the couples who interacted favorably compared to those who seemed hostile towards each other.

True love can stop a cold in its tracks

Perhaps you eat a lot of foods loaded with vitamin C. While that is a great way to boost your immune system, there is something else that seems to do also effectively boost immunity…love! Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University discovered that people who have positive emotions are less likely to get sick after exposure to cold or flu viruses than people who were hostile or negative.

Here’s to a new year full of positive and encouraging relationships!

-The UpWellness Team