Family, friend, partner/spouse, or pet—human beings thrive on a sense of connection and belonging. Did you know that love can actually improve your health, both physically and emotionally? It’s true—research shows that love in all its splendor can put you on the road to health and happiness. And science proves that love really is a boost to your well-being.
The health benefits of love are easy to identify. In this post, I would like to focus on the positive health benefits of love in a healthy, loving situation.
1. Love helps you live longer and fights disease.
People in a loving, long-term relationship have longer average life spans than those that are not in a partnership. For instance, there have been studies that show patients who are diagnosed with cancer have recovered from cancer treatment faster when they had strong family connections. Also, those in loving partnerships recovered quicker or completely eliminated the cancer with no scientific explanation other than the fact the patient had great love and support from close family and friends.
Love and affection can increase levels of Immunoglobulin A (IgA), an antibody found in mucous membranes—such as the membrane lining the gastrointestinal tract—that fights antigens in the body. Simply spending time with your pet can do wonders for your IgA levels and therefore immune function. In fact, researchers discovered that 19 college students who spent just 18 minutes petting a dog showed significant increases in IgA levels when compared to 36 other students who either petted a stuffed dog or sat alone on a couch. (1)
2. Love produces positive emotions and reduces stress.
We all know how a hug from a loved one at the end of a stressful day can instantly make us feel better, and now research tells us why. “Endorphins are the key. According to the National Institute of Health, love triggers the hormone oxytocin which makes us feel good. It also lowers the levels of stress chemicals in our system. Physical contact like cuddles, hugs and kisses trigger the production of oxytocin,” said Jodi Prohofsky, Ph.D., L.M.F.T
In addition, stress can negatively affect your hormones, heart rate, and blood pressure, but in one study of 59 premenopausal women, frequent hugs were linked with balanced blood pressure and higher oxytocin levels, the “cuddle” hormone associated with snuggling and bonding. (2)
Love brings about many positive emotions including laughter. Laughter is healing to the soul and good for your mental well-being. As they say, “laughter is the best medicine.” It’s is a very powerful antidote to fight stress, conflict and pain both mentally and physically.
3. Love keeps the doctor away.
Research shows that loving acts neutralize the kind of negative emotions that adversely affect immune, endocrine, and cardiovascular function. Typically, when you’re in a relationship, your partner cares about your health and they will encourage you to watch your health and discourage bad habits such as smoking, doing drugs or working too much. No one who loves another person wants to see their partner sick. Close friends and family members are also more likely to encourage healthier lifestyle choices.
I hope this article helps you understand that love has a great impact on our emotional and physical well-being. The Beatles were right when they sang, “All you need is love.” We all do. In fact, we need a community of people to love. It will reward us with better health in all areas of our lives.
- Charnetski, C. J. (2004). Effect Of Petting A Dog On Immune System Function. Psychological Reports, 95(7), 1087. doi:10.2466/pr0.95.7.1087-1091
- Light, K. C., Grewen, K. M., & Amico, J. A. (2005). More frequent partner hugs and higher oxytocin levels are linked to lower blood pressure and heart rate in premenopausal women. Biological Psychology, 69(1), 5-21. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2004.11.002