How Love Improves Life

Apr 16, 2024

an older gentleman giving his wife a kiss on the cheekWe all want to experience love, don’t we? Your heart soars, and your attention focuses on the one you love.

When love is good, it’s also good for you, according to research studies.

And although some studies equate love with marriage, since 88% of U.S. residents marry for love, it’s a valid equation.

Benefits of Love

  • Love helps you look younger. Being in love increases circulation to the skin, which makes you look younger.
  • Love improves your heart health. Marriage reduced the risk of heart attacks among people of all ages, according to a 2013 study. Heart problems were over 50% higher in unmarried men and women than married ones. Another study among older couples indicated that when one partner believes the other is supportive, levels of calcification in their arteries (hardened arteries) are reduced.
  • Love benefits mental health. Women in committed relationships tend to have better mental health than women in strained or casual relationships, according to researchers from Cardiff University. Several other studies showed that those who are unmarried experience larger increases in depressive symptoms over the succeeding five years than those who are married.
  • Love reduces anxiety. Researchers who used an MRI to scan the brains of those with a long-term, loving commitment found less activity in the part of the brain associated with anxiety.
  • Love inhibits pain. The MRI study, as well as another from the Centers for Disease Control, show that people in long-term, committed relationships, such as marriage, showed, respectively, more activity in the area of the brain that controls pain and reports of less back pain and headaches.
  • Love benefits physical health. Those same Cardiff University researchers concluded that men in committed relationships benefit from increased physical health. Numerous other studies, however, extend that benefit to both genders.
  • Love heals. Blister wounds inflicted on married couples healed twice as fast for those who acted kindly toward one another, compared to those who showed hostility, reported in a  study in Archives of General Psychiatry.
  • Love helps you live longer. A Health and Human Services report cites numerous studies showing that married people live longer. One study cited as being very qualified noted that married people were 27% less likely to pass away than those divorced or separated and 58% less likely than the never married.

Although research is limited, studies are showing the same benefits for same-sex marriage as for heterosexual marriage.

4 Ways to Stay in Love

Arthur Aron, PhD, one of the authors of the MRI study, offers 4 tips to foster a loving relationship:

  1. Celebrate your loved one’s successes.
  2. Learn communication skills.
  3. Learn to handle conflict constructively.
  4. Engage in activities with your loved one that are challenging and exciting regularly.

Study Caveats

Research on the benefits of love appears convincing, but the case could just as easily be that those who are healthier tend to be in happy, committed relationships or marriages, scientists acknowledge. Researchers also believe that living with someone encourages healthy behaviors, such as not smoking, moderate drinking, using more skin products, eating more nutritiously, and exercising more. Marriage also results in higher average incomes. Having a long-term partner also provides reassurance, which boosts self-confidence, and prevents problems associated with lack of socialization.

If you are divorced, widowed, or never in a committed relationship, take heart: Romantic love is not the only love that provides benefits. Researchers have found evidence to show that altruistic love offers mental and physical advantages, too.

Benefits of Altruistic Love

  • Hugs reduce blood pressure and stress. A University of North Carolina study shows that heartfelt hugs increase the release of oxytocin, which may reduce blood pressure and stress hormones.
  • Altruism increases wellbeing, health and longevity. Research shows a strong association between emotions of kindness, helping behavior or both and wellbeing, health and longevity.
  • Volunteering benefits mental health. Volunteers over 65 rated their lives as being higher in satisfaction and will to live than those who didn’t volunteer. They also had fewer psychosomatic symptoms, as well as symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Philanthropy benefits creativity, health, resilience and longevity, researchers found.
  • Positive emotions boost the immune system. Researchers found that people who show positive emotions are less likely to catch colds and the flu when exposed.

The results of these studies could have major policy implications. Although scientists are researching how starvation diets, exercise and a host of physiological changes may increase longevity, some believe that the most effective way to increase lifespan may be to love.