The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
A smile on your lips, a skip in your step—
Love kindles a fire in our hearts even while it smooths out our moods.
And we’re not just waxing poetic. Scientific studies from Utah to Chicago suggest that lovers steps more lightly because they’re carrying less (mental) baggage. And toting around fewer meds.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, we’ve rounded up a raft of studies that all come to the same conclusion: Love relationships hold the key to a happier, healthier life. From lowering blood pressure to fighting colds, Cupid’s arrow delivers healing powers that money just can’t buy.
Marriage literally makes the heart grow fonder—and stronger. Both men and women benefit from a happy union. In any given year, they’re up to 66% less likely to suffer a cardiac catastrophe than their single peers.
Long Live Love
Want to survive to a ripe old age? Sure, you could exercise and eat right. Just as effective, say some scientists, is a solid marriage. The odds of survival are better for the happily hitched, who are 42% more likely to see a new year than their single peers.
We’ve only just begun our romantic journey. How else does love boost your well-being? Read on for nine more proven health benefits.
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11 Surprising Health Benefits of Love
Marriage dramatically lowers the risk of fatal and non-fatal heart attacks in both men and women of all ages. Compared to their partnered peers, single folks face a 58-66% greater risk of cardiac events.
For men, a happy marriage is a buffer against stroke. An Israeli study shows that single guys face a 64% greater risk of fatal stoke than married males do—but only if the unions are sound and supportive.
A strong partnership can put the kibosh on cortisol, the body’s stress hormone. In an experiment at the University of Chicago, strongly connected people handled stress better than their single peers did.
Want to stay healthy as you get older? Try improving your love life. In a 2013 study, happily married participants reported better health as they aged compared to their peers in less robust unions.
LOWER BLOOD PRESSURE
Another study shows that the blissfully hitched have lower blood pressure than their single counterparts—even those with strong social networks. But unhappily married folks fare the worst of all.
It’s a fact: Married people live longer than their unwedded counterparts. According to the National Health Interview Survey, singletons face a 58% higher risk of mortality in any given year.
Carnegie Mellon researchers have proven that happy, calm people fend off colds and flus more readily than anxious or depressed ones. The takeaway? Positive relationships can help protect against the crud.
When scientists inflicted small blister wounds on couples, the injuries healed almost twice as quickly when the partners interacted with warmth. Arguments and hostility caused a full day’s delay in healing.
MRI brain scans reveal the rewards of love. The gray matter that governs anxiety is calmer when you’re in a long-term love match. The lively part of a lovebird’s brain? It’s the region that regulates bonding.
Love doesn’t hurt after all. Scientists have proven that people consumed with love just don’t have time for the pain. When focused on an image of their beloved, their brains manage discomfort better.
Matrimony also buffers against being bummed out—in both the short-term and the long. Researchers have documented a happiness dividend in the year after marriage, and it persists over the years.
Flying solo right now? Fear not. Scientists have also shown that a strong network of friends, family, neighbors and other important connections boost the odds of a long, healthy life by 50%.