Every morning I wake up to look at my beautiful, healthy bride and I’m thankful. Our relationship has been so good for our health and not just because of the obvious reason that I’m a doctor. A good, healthy relationship can have so many potential health benefits. Humans were made to be loved and challenged by other humans. Our hormones bring us together and our loving relationships can make us healthier. And likewise, our health can make us more loving people. Don’t overlook the potential health benefits of healthy relationships.

So, let’s be clear. I’m not talking about unhealthy relationships where one tries to control the other, stresses their spouse out, or stomps all over boundaries. An unhealthy relationship can actually do a lot of damage to your health, so you have to be aware of how your relationships are improving or hurting your health then go from there.

Love and health are a great partnership for everyone. Women were made for connection that can be so beneficial for their hormones and hormones can support their good health. And if you have been to one of my seminars on hormones you understand how important hormones are for both men and women’s health. The common benefits of loving relationships show how good love can be for your health.

There are a number of potential health benefits of healthy relationships but let’s talk about my favorites today.

6 Potential Health Benefits of Healthy Relationships

1) Increases Healthier Habits

It’s so important to take care of your body. You only get one! People we love can help us be the best version of ourselves and often help encourage healthy habits. It’s unlikely you will let your dental hygiene go if you are waking up to someone to kiss every morning. Spouses and friends can also encourage us to eat better and exercise regularly. Married couples often avoid bad habits with lower rates of substance abuse. (1)

2) Can Lower Stress and Anxiety

Over time, loving relationships can help lower stress levels and help the body respond to stress. When we are in love the body releases oxytocin which is a feel-good hormone that also reduces the stress hormone, cortisol. Just being with someone you care about can lower your stress. Want to lower cortisol even more? Give a hug. As one study found, a hug can reduce cortisol more than just talking on the phone with a loved one. (2) If you are having a bad day a hug can turn it around and people in love have more access to hugs.

3) Can Improve Heart Health

Love can improve your heart health. Lower inflammation, healthy habits, and lower blood pressure might be the reason for this potential health benefit of love. Or it might be the way your love gets your heart racing. According to a 2014 study in Finland, married people have a significantly lower risk of heart attacks and if they do have a heart attack, they have a lower risk of death. (3) Studies also show that bad relationships are linked to increase in coronary artery disease.

4) Can Relieve Pain

Love might help relieve your pain. You might be surprised to know a CDC report found that married people had fewer complaints of headaches and backaches. (4) Studies seem to support the idea that love can make you more resilient to pain. Holding the hand of a loved one can make pain more bearable. One study even found that being shown the photograph of your love could reduce the perception of pain. (5)

5) Supports a Healthy Immune Response

Love lowers stress and helps your body’s immune response. Stress can dampen the immune response because of the inflammation and hormone disruption that it can cause. Love on the other hand can protect us from illness and support our immune response. (6) (7) In fact, regular hugs have been shown to lower your chance of getting that cold and can help you recover. (8) So, who needs a hug? I’ll give you one even if you are sick!

6) May Lead to Long Life

Healthy habits, a supported immune response, and lower stress could all add up to living longer which is another potential health benefit of love! According to one study of 19,000 adults and their marriage satisfaction, a happier marriage could mean a 20% lower risk of dying early compared to those who described their marriage as unhappy. (9) Other studies show that all our loving relationships can add up to a longer life. (10) Love will make that long life a lot better if you ask me!

Love and Health Make Life So Much Better

When you ask seniors if they looked back on their lifetime what would they focus on many of them say it would be people and taking care of themselves. Things come and go but it’s the people that make a difference. You can’t enjoy your time on this earth as much without people to love and the healthiest version of yourself. I know the amazing people in my life make me a better person. I’m going to spread as much love and health as I can. So, what are you going to focus on?

If you made it this far, I bet you said love and health! Enjoy all the benefits of healthy relationships and the potential health benefits of love!

Written by Dr. Patrick Flynn

Resources for Health and Love:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1449833/
  2. https://www.nature.com/articles/srep03034
  3. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140213095048.htm#:~:text=A%20recent%20study%20from%20Finland,to%20people%20who%20were%20single.
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_10/sr10_252.pdf
  5. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0013309
  6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0306453018306516
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1449833/
  8. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.472.298&rep=rep1&type=pdf
  9. https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fhea0000677
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10854957/