Love, relationships and health. Being in love actually has tangible health benefits for both your body and your mind. The most important of all is that you have a longer life. This is based on research showing a clear link between strong social ties and longevity. The American Journal of Epidemiology evaluated the relationships of nearly 5,000 adults ages 30 to 69. Those with strong and happy marriages lived longer than single men and women.
In the same study, adults with poor social ties had twice the risk of death compared to others in the study. More and more research shows an increased risk of illness and death in people with low quantity and low quality of social relationships.
It’s appropriate that the symbol of love is a heart, given all the heart health benefits of being in love. Married people experience half the risk of death from heart disease than single or divorced men and women. Being in love tends to lower our response to stress, which in turn can lower blood pressure. Studies show that strong love, marriage, and social ties improve blood pressure; while isolation and being around strangers increases it. The same is true for heart rate.
And if you have a heart attack, being happily married helps. In a 2015 study, married people had a 14% lower risk of dying in the hospital after a heart attack. They also had shorter hospital stays by an average of two days.
Love, relationships and health: heart and lungs
It’s not just your heart that benefits from being in love. Being married can help protect against complications and death from pneumonia. Compared to single men and women, married people are less likely to need ventilation through a breathing machine. They also have shorter hospital stays and less likely to end up in an intensive care unit. They also have a 13% lower risk of dying during hospitalization from pneumonia.
In addition to the physical health benefits, being in love also works wonders for your mental health. Love, marriage, and general well-being reduce stress, which also strengthens your immune system. The hormones oxytocin and vasopressin interact with your dopamine reward system. This is the same system that makes people feel good or happy when positive events happen, like getting a raise or falling in love. Cortisol, the stress hormone, initially increases when you fall in love, but quickly falls into a stable long-term relationship. Low levels of cortisol sustained in a stable long-term relationship contribute to many health benefits.
Regardless of the state of your relationship, remember that positive and close relationships are important to your overall health and well-being. Taking the time to invest in family and friends is also an investment in your personal health.