No matter if you’re in a relationship or are single, love is an essential part of a happy and healthy life. Whether it’s family, friends or other close relationships, strong connections can lead to some surprising health benefits.
And while new love may make your heart skip a beat, true health benefits come from love that is built on a feeling of being valued and respected. Those strong connections and sense of belonging can be found in relationships with a partner, parent or good friend.
See the five surprising ways that love can benefit your health, and take time to strengthen your relationships or even build new ones. In doing so, you’ll be nourishing a healthy, love-filled life.
It may seem obvious, but if your life is full of love, then it will likely be full of happiness. They go hand-in-hand. In fact, one study found that families who have a strong connection and social support system (love) are significantly happier. The study also noted that family income had no effect on happiness. So the old adage, “money can’t buy you love” could be changed to “you don’t need money to have love.”
A growing body of research reveals that (happily) married people live longer. One study, for example, evaluated almost 6,000 people and found that people who have never been married have a significantly shorter lifespan. But this doesn’t mean you must be married to extend your life. The point is; love is about mutual support. Those with a strong social support system have protective health benefits that support a long life.
Because supportive relationships can reduce stress, your immune system may be better able to fight off invaders that can make you sick. A landmark paper conducted by Carnegie Mellon University researchers showed that those who had positive emotions were better able to fight off the cold and influenza viruses.
Surprisingly enough, love can also lower your blood pressure. One study, for example, compared the blood pressures of single, happily married, and unhappily married people. While those who were happily married had the best blood pressure averages, those who were unhappily married had the worst blood pressure of all the test subjects. Being single and having a healthy social network also led to good results.
Another factor that can play into the connection between love and health is the “contagion” effect. Scientists have discovered we are strongly influenced by those we are closest to. This effect is so strong that we’ll adopt those behaviors, whether it’s going to the gym or walking around the block. And if someone close to you starts a good habit such as eating more fruits and veggies, you’re more likely to as well. Healthy is contagious.