The Power of Love:
Let’s shift the attention from global pandemic to a different health issue: the ways loving intimate relationships can benefit your life. According to University of Utah HEALTH, Kirtly Parker Jones, MD, people in loving relationships enjoy:
“fewer doctor visits, shorter hospital stays, less pain, and have more positive emotions.”
The power of love is great during these uncertain times. It adds to our resilience, but wait – there’s more…
Here are 5 ways positive intimate relationships contribute to health benefits:
- Living Longer. This is particularly the case for men who are found to be healthier when they’re married and tend to live longer. Studies show the reduced stress in romantic relationships combines with healthier habits we tend to make in our happy couple bubbles – like reducing how much we smoke, drink and eat.
- Healing quicker with a stronger immune system. The love hormone, oxytocin, is produced more in people enjoying positive supportive relationships. It is linked to reducing stress and seems to correlate with boosting the immune system so you catch fewer colds. This love drug also has an antibiotic-like effect to promote healing of wounds.
- Lowering blood pressure. Being in a stable healthy relationship at midlife is a better predictor of health and happiness than cholesterol levels, according to a 2017 study by Dr Robert Waldinger at Harvard Medical School. The Journal of the American Heart Association shows how the death rate for married people is lower than for those people that never married, divorced or widowed.
- Exercising more. Relationships have an influence on our physical well-being, particularly our heart health. Professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad, at Brigham Young University in Utah, notes how “a supportive partner might encourage you in healthy ways – to exercise or eat better or see a doctor when you need one.”
- Reducing stress. Any form of physical intimacy, from holding hands to hugging can lower our stress levels. In a good relationship, stability and knowing that ‘someone has your back’ ensures less release of the fight-or-flight hormones. You experience fewer negative effects not only from stress, but also benefit from less anxiety and reduced depression.
Whether you’re married, living together, or ‘in a relationship’ – the quality of the connection matters. Sociologists, Hui Liu and Linda Waite report in Bad marriage, broken heart? how crappy relationships reduce the health benefits we’ve outlined above. In relationships, like computers, it’s garbage in … garbage out. It need not be perfect, you may argue and forget to take out the rubbish, but the trust and security of a positive relationship, helps you to live a happier, longer and healthier life.
So, whilst we incessantly chat about COVID-19, reducing smoking and the need to exercise more, we should also reflect on the importance of relationships, and their role in our health. Holt-Lunstand, encourages greater understanding of relationships:
“We need to start taking our relationships just as seriously.”