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Chinn Chats

The down & dirty on women's wellness


Love

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

February 1, 2021

We are supposed to take our vitamins, right? We are supposed to eat some kale, right? We are supposed to buy a Peloton & ride it regularly, right? We are supposed to get 8 hours of sleep each night, right? We are supposed to get the COVID vaccine as soon as possible, right?


None of us is confused about how we maintain our health. We know we are supposed to have pap smears, screening labs, & regular dental exams. We know we are supposed to watch our trans fats, eat more vegetables, & occasionally take a walk outside. We know something about cholesterol, ? maybe gluten ?, & the evils of too much sugar. We check our skin for weird moles, watch our poop for bleeding, assess our breasts for lumps (but, why is there SO MUCH lumpiness to confuse us?!). When was the last time you took inventory, from a health perspective, of how much love you were getting in your life?


We’re guessing never. Girl, it’s high time. If we told you the amount of love that fills your day is as important as (or, possibly, more important than) the amount of cardio you fit into your day, you would tell us that we were lying. But, we aren’t. The amount of love you feel has huge implications for the way your body heals…& more.


For one thing, people who feel loved are less depressed. Duh, right? We know. It is honestly that simple. People who feel loved & who feel love for others, who surround themselves with people on whom they can rely & who they know are relying on them in turn spend a whole lot less time being sad. This leads to a lot less drug abuse & significant decrease in heavy drinking, which have tremendous impacts on human health—so, just stop drinking & drugging you say? It’s a heck of a lot easier to do when you know someone loves you, is there for you, & will have your back if you fail.


In fact, the sense of being loved that social connectedness & support evokes, results in a remarkable ability to manage stress that those who feel more isolated & lonelier do not enjoy. Supportive relationships result in dramatically diminished anxiety responses, & sleeping near someone to whom you feel connected results in a 10% increase in your likelihood to have more restful sleep, which we all know makes us a lot more functional, less irritable, & more capable of taking whatever the day throws our way in stride. Happily married individuals (not unhappily married individuals) see an astonishing decrease in blood pressure numbers relative to those in unsupportive relationships and to those who feel generally lonely. Singles with strong social networks enjoy some benefits relative to those who are more isolated, but the best benefit is derived from a supportive, consistent romantic love.


The same is true of cholesterol. Research repeatedly demonstrates a positive net effect of a happy marriage on objective measurements of risks to our heart health. Experts speculate that these findings may result from greater motivation to engage in active self-care, to feel compelled to eat more healthfully, to have someone to support you when you decide to finally quit smoking, to finally use that treadmill you gifted each other for your anniversary, to work harder to still look good naked. Whatever the cause, the data are irrefutable: your heart is truly protected when you’re in love.


In fact, you not only have a lower risk of heart attack, but you also will reap the benefits of less risk of particular cancers, fewer episodes of pneumonia, a more robust immune system that results in a lower likelihood of becoming ill generally, a much more rapid recovery process when you do get ill, & wounds that literally heal twice as fast if you are in a warmly interacting long-term relationship in which you feel truly loved. Sexually active humans who report positive sexual relationships take significantly fewer sick days when compared to their celibate counterparts, suggesting that there is something in their love potion #9 that is bolstering their immune integrity.


Whether it’s the immune system, the universe, or the grace of God at work, those who are happily married are 58% less likely to die than those who have never been married, & loneliness itself, is strongly associated with an increase in all-cause mortality, which is death for every single reason. And, lest you argue there are fates worse than death, having a supportive romantic relationship reduces our pain response, such that the threat of an electric shock evokes a diminished stress response when holding the hand of someone we love, & married individuals are less likely than their single brethren to complain of headaches & chronic back pain, & are more likely to manage pain with lower doses of analgesia than those who do not have supportive partners in their lives.


The benefits are not exclusive to marriage & can certainly be extrapolated to relationships of all kinds that are enduring, reliable, & truly supportive. We don’t mean to imply that, without marriage, you will die. The research has mostly been conducted using marital relationships & comparing them to non-marital relationships. Before you jump on Tinder to find whatever eligible single human might be out there, know that it isn’t the act of being in a relationship itself that actually matters. Happiness depends on the quality of human relationships & connectivity more than anything else: money, fame, glory be damned. All we actually need is love. Whether there’s a ring on it or not, the greatest benefit is won when we are able to articulate a sense of being truly loved & of loving others in return.