Health & Wellness

Stress Less, Live Longer, and More: The 7 Health Benefits of Love

There’s an old saying that’s often quoted in our society: “It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Now, that’s often said during a time of loss—whether that’s after a breakup or even after the tragic loss of a loved one. And while it often offers little comfort in those moments, there is a deep truth to those powerful words. In fact, scientists have spent years uncovering love’s power, specifically studying the health benefits of love. And their findings are incredible.

Recently, I shared with you that loneliness can be as detrimental to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Now, let’s review the flip side of that and look at all of the amazing health benefits of love. We’ll discuss all the ways love—whether it’s from another person, a pet, or even self-love—boosts your overall health, well-being, and happiness. And, as a bonus, I’ll share with you how powerful the act of giving love can be!

 

7 Amazing Health Benefits of Love

We all know that giving and receiving love makes us feel happy, but there are numerous health benefits of love, too! Let’s discuss some of the biggest benefits of love and how this incredible emotion can support your health and well-being.

 

 

1. Aids stress management

As you likely know by now, I believe that your body’s ability to handle stress is key for maintaining optimal health. Accordingly, I recommend a four-step plan to support your body’s stress management, and one of those steps is all about the mind-body connection. Basically, you need to make time for positivity in your life, and one of the most positive, rewarding experiences in life is to give and receive love. And now scientists are finding that one of the biggest health benefits of love is its ability to lower stress.

In fact, one study revealed that when couples held hands for 10 minutes and then followed up by hugging for 20 seconds, they displayed healthier responses to stressful events. [1] But what caused that to happen?

Well, when you’re giving or receiving love, the hormone oxytocin is released into your bloodstream. Believe it or not, oxytocin can actually induce anti-stress effects by suppressing the production of cortisol (the stress hormone). [2] How incredible is it that just being with someone you love has the power to benefit your health and well-being in such a profound way?

2. Boosts the immune system

I know what you’re thinking … can this really be one of the health benefits of love? And the answer is a resounding yes! The simple act of receiving affection from loved ones can actually help boost your immune system!

In a 2018 study, researchers followed 404 adults to observe how receiving hugs impacted their moods and levels of conflict. Amazingly, they ended up revealing that being hugged more often was associated with decreased likelihood of catching infectious diseases, meaning that hugs actually supported the participants’ immune systems. [3] Furthermore, participants who were sick and experienced more hugs had less severe symptoms than those who were hugged less.

3. Helps reduce aches and pains

Have you ever noticed that when you’re in emotional pain, you turn to your loved ones for comfort? Well, as it turns out, they can help ease your physical pain as well!

According to a study published in 2010, simply looking at a photo of a romantic partner can help decrease pain. Participants who did so while experiencing pain reported a reduction in pain by up to 44 percent. Furthermore, the study revealed that the intensity of more severe pain decreased by up to 13 percent. The researchers hypothesized that looking at a romantic partner’s photo may actually trigger the release of natural opioids in your body, effectively reducing pain. [4]

4. Supports healthy blood pressure

Another one of the great health benefits of love is its ability to support cardiovascular health by helping to regulate your blood pressure. In fact, several studies have shown how giving and receiving love can help to lower your blood pressure.

A review published in 2015 confirmed that a high-quality spousal relationship was associated with lower blood pressure, while having an “ambivalent” partner was linked to higher blood pressure rates. [5] This study shows that truly feeling loved and valued can help to manage your blood pressure levels. But you don’t have to be married to take advantage of this love-related health benefit.

Did you know that loving a pet can also help you manage your blood pressure? Numerous studies have shown that caring for and even touching your pet, such as petting your dog, helps to lower blood pressure in people. [6] As you may know, I have three dogs, and I simply love cuddling up with them after a long day at work. It’s nice to have that time with them while knowing it helps to relieve my stress and also support my heart health!

5. Boosts energy

Think about the last time you saw someone you truly love after being away from them for a while. Whether it’s a parent, sibling, spouse, child, or friend, when you first lay eyes on them, you likely feel a surge of excitement and vitality. And now it’s been proven: One of the official health benefits of love is its ability to boost your energy!

According to a 2014 study published in the journal Psychophysiology, participants who thought about their partners experienced a significant energy boost 10 and 25 afterwards. [7] So, if you find yourself lagging during the day, you could save the cost of the cup of coffee and instead spend a few minutes thinking about someone special in your life to give you a jolt of energy!

6. Reduces risk of depression and anxiety

You know that loneliness increases your risk of depression and anxiety, so it only makes sense that one of the health benefits of love is its power to decrease this risk. After all, when you feel loved, supported, and protected, you feel at peace.

Interestingly, a 10-year study on almost 5,000 participants revealed people with the highest quality social relationships had the lowest risk of developing major depression. Meanwhile, those who had the lowest quality relationships had the highest risk. [8]

If you suspect someone may be suffering from depression and/or anxiety, I want to encourage you to reach out and help them feel supported. It may just change their lives—and yours.

7. Linked to longer life expectancy

This may be one of the most surprising health benefits of love—but not for the reason you’re thinking!

While it’s been well-documented that married couples tend to live longer than people who are single, there’s a more shocking line of research regarding the health benefits of love and life expectancy. And it’s all based around the specific act of giving love, not receiving it.

One of the biggest ways we show love is to show that we care. Interestingly, caregiving has been associated with lower mortality rates. In fact, did you know that grandparents who help care for their grandchildren have a 37 percent lower mortality rate than those who don’t watch their grandchildren? [9] But there’s more! The researchers revealed that even childless participants who helped others had longer life expectancies than those who didn’t help people in their social networks. Perhaps there’s truth to the old saying that it’s better to give love than receive it—at least in terms of your health!

Now, it’s worth mentioning that when you’re placed in the role of caregiver for another adult, such as a parent or grandparent, it can become a very stressful situation. After all, it’s hard to have that responsibility while also watching your loved one(s) struggle. So, it can become a very slippery slope. Although it can be difficult to do so, try to focus on the amazing care and love you’re sharing with a dependent. And make sure you’re supporting your body’s stress response the proper nutrition, herbs, activity, and rest. You’ve got this!

 

Health benefits of love - Dr. Pingel

 

Key Takeaways

  • You know that love can support happiness, but there are also several health benefits of love.
  • Whether from a person, pet, or even self-love, these benefits range from decreased stress to lower blood pressure to longer life expectancy!
  • Interestingly, studies are showing that giving love may actually have more health benefits than receiving it, especially when it comes to caregiving.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.