February 13, 2020
The Health Benefits of Being In Love
A cat and a dog with their heads snuggled togetherSource: Pexels
What’s love got to do with health? Well, more than you might expect.
Last year, we discussed what’s going on in your brain when you’re in love: a wave of hormones including dopamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin wash over you. These hormones are associated with happiness, trust, and connectedness.
But, how does love impact your health overall?
Love and Life Expectancy
Being in love may lead you to live a longer life, according to a 2011 American Journal of Epidemiology review.
“Singles had a 30 percent increased risk of mortality relative to married persons,” the review says. Singles also had a 24 percent higher risk of dying earlier in life than married individuals.
While the review touches upon various benefits associated with marriage, such as increased social and economic support, it does mention that marriage can be a source of “health-damaging stress.”
But as a whole, marriage is often associated with better health.
Love and Pain
“Pain is modulated by various factors, the most notable of which is emotions,” says a 2017 Malaysian Journal of Medical Sciences review. “Since love is an emotion, it can also modulate pain.”
Modern neuroimaging technology has revealed similar brain regions activate when experiencing love or pain, but the effects of these activations rely on the individual’s brain connectivity and behavior, the review says.
In a behavioral study of 25 women who were in relationships for at least six months, researchers compared their response to painful heat while they held hands with their partners or looked at photos of them.
The women’s pain perception had been reduced in both states, however, looking at photos of their partner had greater pain-reducing effects.
Other studies have shown that how expressive an individual is of their love may affect their pain threshold. Those who were more extraverted had a reduced pain threshold, the review says.
Love and pain bare their similarities, but how love affects pain depends on the personality of the individual.
Love and Immunity
In a study of 112 college students, researchers found those who were more sexually active had higher levels of immunoglobulin A in their saliva.
IgA is an antibody found in the nose, breathing passages, eyes, ears, digestive tract, and vagina, according to the University of Michigan. About 10 to 15 percent of the antibodies in humans are IgA, although some people don’t produce any IgA.
However, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Engaging in too much sexual activity may be an indicator of sex addiction, especially if it’s paired with obsessive thoughts and compulsions related to sex.
Of course, it’s no secret that throwing your willie around all willy-nilly isn’t the greatest idea either, as it can increase your risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease.
In short, sex can be great for your health and immune system – just be safe, responsible, and consensual.
Love and Heart Health
Loving with all of your heart can be great for your heart health, research suggests.
Those who were married had better cardiovascular health and had lowered risks of cardiovascular disease, according to a 2017 Journal of Women’s Health review.
A 2016 Journal of Health and Social Behavior study found sexual activity correlated with cardiovascular health in older adults, but the results varied among men and women.
For men, the study found increased sexual activity coincided with improved cardiovascular health, whereas the sexual quality had more of an impact on cardiovascular health for women.
While marriage is associated with longer life expectancy and other positive health benefits, not all hope is lost for singles.
According to a 2019 Scripps article, “all types of love can benefit your heart.” This includes having a loving relationship with your friends or family.
Self-love is also a critical key to personal wellness, so if you don’t have a Valentine this year, don’t fret. Treat yourself to a night out on the town, a good meal, and a movie.
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