Love does make the world go 'round! These adages and verse are so commonplace because they are intuitively rooted in truth. Modern science has proven the health benefits to the love of a stable long-term relationship. We have long recognized differences in health benefit and medical outcomes among people who are involved in a loving, supportive relationship. The exact reason why this is so remains open to some speculation but the evidence is overwhelming regarding the favorable benefits. A review by the Dept of Health and Human Services of available evidence collates the favorable outcomes.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that a happy relationship means less chance of illness. Individuals who are married simply have fewer medical problems and visit the doctor less. They have fewer problems with depression or anxiety. There are some obvious benefits to the support of a social network. This becomes a safety net and natural support system for coping with the daily stresses of life. A partner who can share or mitigate the stress of emotional or financial pressure can be an invaluable resource. Humans seem to be social creatures that need and thrive with this kind of positive support. By the same token, the absence of this support or even worse, a relationship that is the source of stress can only add to one’s problems. Having stated the obvious, overall, people in relationships do better than those that do not have this support.
When they do get sick they heal faster and have fewer complications. They even get fewer infectious diseases such as common colds. Studies have shown that people in long-term relationships heal faster and have less pain after surgery. Fewer problems from high blood pressure and longer life span also correlate to being in a reasonable long-term relationship. For over fifty years, we have understood that stress can have a profound effect on health and illness. If one’s stress is great enough, it clearly affects the normal function of the immune system. This cumulative effect can leave someone vulnerable to illness for 18-24 months after the stress has subsided.
Although we don’t completely understand the mechanism, research clearly shows the benefits of a happy relationship. The importance of joy and happiness in a family and personal relationships far outweigh the importance of income in numerous studies. Feeling validated and connected to your environment is fundamentally important when coping with the many normal stresses of life. Depression and anxiety are very manageable with treatment. Support during crisis is important, but nurturing and appreciating each other when things are good is even more powerful. Prevention and positive reinforcement are more powerful. Validating children and adults for their good behavior is what empowers us and cultivates confidence. Feeling loved allows us to be stronger and more thoughtful individuals, capable of clear thinking and greater productivity. Developing trust and respect in all relationships through better communication skills enhances our ability to manage stress and conflict. These skills take practice but can be enhanced with only minimal but regular effort. Discuss stress management with your health care provider. There are inexpensive things that you can do yourself and many support groups for more loving and mindful living.
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