Can love boost your health?

What the science says

Can love boost your health?

You’ve heard the musical phrase, “Love is all you need.” It’s certainly true that our health flourishes with good old-fashioned love—of any kind (friends, family, even your favorite sports team!). Find out how love affects our heart health and our brain health.

 Love and heart health

Falling in love can make the heart go pitter-patter. It turns out that love literally does the heart good.

 Happily married men and women scored lower on 24-hour blood pressure readings, compared to unwed adults, according to scientific research, while those who were unhappily married had the highest blood pressure of all. The same study found that blood pressure of the blissfully wed dropped more during sleep than it did in singles.

And an older study found that women who received frequent hugs from their partner had lower resting blood pressure and heart rates than those who reported fewer hugs.

What’s more, marriage or cohabitation has been shown to reduce the risk for fatal and nonfatal heart attacks in men and women of all ages. In people who do go on to develop heart problems, those who are married or cohabitating are more likely to have better outcomes than those who aren’t.

It’s not just romantic love

Loving relationships with friends and family can also have cardiovascular benefits. Researchers have found that people who have had cardiac bypass surgery and who have strong social support have better recovery and survival rates than those without.

Being surrounded by people who love you, whether a spouse, sibling, or friend, can make you more likely to follow medical advice, get exercise, and play an active role in your care, all of which improve recovery.

This is also why any fitness trainer will recommend joining up with a friend or partner to stay committed to working out: having someone you care about to count on can increase your own accountability and make activities that much more fun.

Love on the brain

When people first fall in love, they might find themselves daydreaming about the object of their affection. It’s not just all in their heads. Love can actually benefit our brain.

Falling in love causes the body to release a flood of feel-good chemicals, including dopamine, which triggers a sense of euphoria. In those early lovey-dovey stages, endorphins, vasopressin, and oxytocin rise, contributing to an overall sense of well-being and security.

Love also affects negative emotions by deactivating the neural pathway responsible for negative emotions, such as fear and social judgment.

As the initial intense excitement of love fades over time, and people start feeling a deeper sense of contentment, brain areas that trigger more complex cognitive functions kick in. This can lead to positive effects such as pain suppression, improved memory, and greater creativity.


By Joanne Peters