Love is a many splendored thing. It lifts us up where we belong — and, uh, can prevent degenerative memory and heart disease. At the end of our days, we will celebrate the people in our lives more than we ever will the things, or the “accomplishments.” Your degree will not be at your bedside. Your money isn’t going with you. It’s a common understanding among the older and wiser that it’s about who is in your life, not what. However, it is important to add that the older and wiser sharing this insight got to be old and wise because caring involvement with others may be one of the easiest and most beneficial health strategies available to us.
A lack of social support and human connection can have long-lasting negative impacts, including depression, decreased immune function, and higher blood pressure.
Sustaining love — the kind that creates deep-reaching bonds between friends, family members, and significant others, yields clear health benefits. This love can be personified in moments of social support, including compliments, random acts of kindness, helping, and meaningful conversations. The benefits are huge and impact the provider of the love as much as the recipient.
Love makes the world go round, but it also gives strength to those on the journey. Here are 7 physical and emotional benefits of compassionate and endearing love, rooted in research.
1. Long-term commitment leads to longer life.
Dan Buettner’s “Power 9” Blue Zones research calculates that committing to a life partner can add 3 years to life expectancy and a review of 148 studies shows that people with healthy, long-term social relationships are 50% less likely to die prematurely than those without. That’s as large a benefit as people get from not smoking.
2. Supportive friends serve as human stress balls.
A study out of the University of Michigan showed that social closeness, as demonstrated by women engaging in personal and connecting conversations, increases progesterone, a hormone assessed in saliva. When progesterone increases, it shows that an individual’s motivation to bond with others has also increased. Higher levels of progesterone show satisfaction from positive relationships with others, helping to boost well-being and reduce anxiety and stress.
3. Positive relationships could turn you into Wolverine.
In a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, researchers at Ohio State University Medical Center tested blister wounds in two groups of married couples: one group interacted compassionately and gently with each other. The others displayed hostile behavior towards each other. The blisters in the group who communicated kindly with each other healed nearly twice as fast in spouses than the others who operated negatively.
4. Strong networks make us stronger.
A 2012 international Gallup poll found that people who feel as though they can depend on their friends and family are generally more satisfied with their personal health than people who describe themselves as isolated or lonely.
5. Good friends are worth their weight in gold — literally.
A survey by the National Bureau of Economic Research, as Roshan D Bhondekar shared in Love — The Key to Optimism: Path Toward Happiness, found that 5,000 agreed that doubling your group of friends has the same positive effect on your well-being as a 50% increase in income!
6. Good love serves as a natural Tylenol.
A CDC report of 2012 National Health Statistics Reports explained that in a study of more than 127,000 adults, married people who were generally happy were less likely to complain of headaches and back pain.
7. Love makes a more positive impact than money.
A study in the Journal of Family Psychology showed that one of the strongest effects of love in our lives is joy and that joy was created by healthy, positive family and friend relationships rather than level of income.
Originally published at soulanatomy.org on February 15, 2016.