In consideration of Valentine’s Week, we want to talk about a topic that has had poetry, songs, novels, movies, and even scientists write about it. It is mentioned 310 times in the King James Version of the Bible. It has been associated with heart disease and it has been associated with improved health. What is this larger than life topic that creates such a stir in people?
Whether you will be celebrating this Valentine’s Day with your sweetheart, your parents or your pets, we think you should know how Love can affect your health.
Just as Tina Turner sang in her 1984, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” hit, we learn that love truly can influence our health in many ways. If you feel loved and experience love, you rarely feel isolated, lonely, depressed, or alienated. People who experience those feelings tend to have to take more medications, experience more sickness and have a poor quality of life.
Those who know how to give love (even if it is to your pet), and receive love (even if it is from your pet), experience at least 10 surprising health benefits:
1. Fewer doctor visits
A review of several studies suggests that married people spend less time in a hospital and have fewer doctor visits. Although there isn’t one primary reason for this, it is known that human beings are designed by God to be in relationships. In Genesis 2:18, God says that it is not good for man to be “alone.” God is a social God and He designed us to be in His image. Therefore, married couples who have maintained their love, will experience better health.
Another theory is that people who are in a loving relationship take better care of each other. They hold one another accountable in a loving way whether it is in oral hygiene, wholefood supplementation, exercise, or even diet.
2. Improved immune Health
Research suggests that happy couples who engage in positive conflict resolution have higher functioning immune systems than those who don’t. Several couples were observed during disputes. The couples who displayed the most negative behavior during the fights also showed the largest decline in immediate immune system functioning. Those who argued in a more loving, positive way had higher immediate immune function. Looking to fight in a healthier way? The key to positive conflict resolution is productively engaging in the conversation without retreating or “stonewalling” each other.
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.
This study illustrates a vital aspect of the way marriage affects health. It’s the quality of the marriage and not the existence of marriage that makes a difference. 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 better than a 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. 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. New-found love can be rather stressful, while long-term connection can be calming.
5. Natural Pain Control
Studies reveal another big perk for long-term couples — more activation in the part of the brain that keeps pain under control. In a study of more than 127,000 adults, married people were less likely to complain of headaches and back pain. A CDC report complements this finding.
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. It Can Improve Your Mental Health
We all know that being in love makes us feel elated, but it’s not just in our heads. There actually is scientific evidence of romance’s blissful effects on the brain. A study from Rutgers University found when participants looked at photos of people they deeply love they had an increase of dopamine brain activity, which is associated with optimism, energy and a sense of well-being. Talk about being high on love!
7. Fewer Colds
We’ve seen that loving relationships can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression – all of these actually 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.
9. Clearer Skin
That healthy glow of being in love? It’s not just a myth! When our love life is in order, our stress levels are lower. There is less free-floating cortisol—high cortisol levels cause stress-induced acne––and thus less skin breakouts and pimples.
10. Longer Life
A growing body of research indicates that married people live longer. One of the largest studies examined the effect of marriage on mortality during an eight-year period in the 1990’s. Researchers found that people who had never been married were 58% more likely to die younger than married people.
According to a 2004 study by the CDC, mortality rates were again found to be the lowest in married couples. These findings are attributed to the fact that, generally speaking, people experience less stress when they’re in committed, healthy relationships—and less stress means better health. Plus, it has been shown that when men marry they give up some of their risky behavior—like heavy drinking and smoking—which leads to longevity.
Marriage contributes to longer life mostly through mutual practical support, financial benefits, and children who provide support. But an emotional explanation can also be made. Marriage protects against death by warding off feelings of isolation. Loneliness is associated with all-cause mortality — dying for any reason. In other words, married people live longer because they feel loved and connected.
If you happen to be lucky enough to be married, take a good, long look at your relationship. Whichever season of marriage you find yourself in, if your marriage needs some work, now is the best time to place it as number one on your priority list. As 1 Corinthians 13:13 says “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Remember God loves you so whether or not you are in a loving relationship His love surpasses any love that could ever be given by a human. Let Him wrap His loving arms around you and then you too will enjoy all of the benefits of His Love.
“Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow”