Studies show those who have close, positive relationships with others enjoy many health benefits
In 1985, Huey Lewis and the News sang “The Power of Love,” featured in the hit movie Back to the Future.
Over 30 years later, researchers are finding that the rock band was onto something.
According to the Encyclopedia of Human Relationships, a stable form of love leads to tangible health benefits.
Harry Reis, co-editor of that publication, told WebMD, “There is very nice evidence that people who participate in satisfying, long-term relationships fare better on a whole variety of health measures.”
Reis pointed out that this benefit isn’t only for happily married couples. He said that solid relationships with a friend, parent, or child can reap the same health benefits.
The three keys, according to Reis, are:
- Feeling connected to other people.
- Feeling respected and valued by other people.
- Feeling a sense of belonging.
The article goes on to point out 10 studies and statistics where people with happy relationships fare markedly better than those either in a stressful situation or don’t have strong emotional connections with others. Three are especially notable for seniors.
- Fewer Doctor’s Visits
According to a study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, married people have fewer doctor’s visits and shorter average hospital stays.
Reis says the reason for this could lie in our past.
“The best logic for this is that human beings have been crafted by evolution to live in closely knit social groups. When that is not happening, the biological systems … get overwhelmed.”
The DHHS theorizes that people who have close relationships with others may keep each other honest or motivate them to maintain healthy habits, thus keeping doctor’s visits and hospitalizations down.
- Fewer Colds/Illnesses
Research from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh found that people who were positive and content – characteristics of people who have healthy relationships with others – were less likely to get sick after being exposed to cold or flu viruses. The study compared people who exhibited positive emotions with those who appeared anxious, hostile, or depressed.
- Longer Life
The National Health Interview Survey conducted an eight-year study in the 1990s that found married people live longer than singles. The study says there are both physical and emotional components to this. The physical reasons include mutual support, more access to financial benefits, and support from children.
Emotional explanations include more of a feeling of belonging and purpose, warding off feelings of isolation, which can lead to depression and other health issues.
“Loneliness is associated with all-cause mortality,” said Reis. “(Which is) dying for any reason.”
While the term love and the generalized definition of it play a big part in the month of February for couples, these studies show that it’s more the power of companionship, rather than love, that plays a big part in our health and well-being.