Is love powerful enough to lower one's blood pressure, reduce depression and speed the healing of an injury? Well, science says, yes it is!
"Our relationships help us cope with stress, so if we have someone we can turn to for emotional support or advice, that can buffer the negative effects of stress," the Washington Post quoted Julianne Holt-Lunstad, of the Brigham Young University, as saying.
AdvertisementHolt-Lunstad's study found that happily married people have lower blood pressure than unmarried people. But unhappily married people have higher blood pressure than both groups.
So, when it comes to blood pressure, at least, you're probably better off alone than in a troubled marriage.
Loving spouses tend to encourage preventive care, reinforce healthy behaviors such as exercise and flossing, and dissuade unhealthy ones, such as heavy drinking, according to many studies.
Romantic relationships also can provide a sense of meaning and purpose in life that can translate to better self-care and less risk taking, said Holt-Lunstad.
Arthur Aron, a social psychologist at Stony Brook University in New York, does brain scans with fMRI machines of people at various stages of the romantic journey: newly in love, in long-term relationships and recently rejected.
In his studies, Aron has consistently found that feelings of love trigger the brain's dopamine-reward system. Dopamine is a powerful neurotransmitter that affects pleasure and motivation.
Hugging and hand-holding, meanwhile, have been found to release the hormone oxytocin, which lowers the levels of stress hormones in the body, reducing blood pressure, improving mood and increasing tolerance for pain, according to research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
If being in love makes you happy, it may also have another welcome health benefit: fewer colds. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh found that those who tended to experience positive emotions such as happy, pleased and relaxed were more resistant to the common cold than those who felt anxious, hostile or depressed.
A happy marriage may also speed the rate that wounds heal, according to a 2005 study at Ohio State University. It found that a married couple's 30-minute positive, supportive discussion sped up their bodies' ability to recover from an injury by at least one day.