It’s February and love is in the air. Between Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year, love is all around us. Love goes beyond the romantic, spine-tingling early days of a new relationship and can be found in the supportive relationships of friends, family and romantic partners. We know it feels good, but what are some of the benefits of love and social connectedness?
We need love to move beyond just surviving
Throughout history, philosophers and psychologists have emphasized the importance of human connection for survival. As our online connectedness makes us more and more ‘self-sufficient’ and isolated, this is more important than ever. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we need love to move beyond just surviving. Maslow’s theory states that we need to fulfill our basic needs before moving on to the next level of need. Our most basic needs are physical (air, water, food and shelter), then comes safety (health and security), and next up the list is love and belonging. Feeling loved and part of a community gives us a base to move on to bigger and better things like creativity and spontaneity!
A lack of social connection is detrimental to your health
A landmark study conducted by the University of Michigan found that a lack of social connection has a more detrimental effect to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. Please don’t trade broccoli for cigarettes!
Health benefits of love and social connectedness
On the other hand, having strong social connections is associated with lower levels of chronic disease because of lower blood pressure, better immune responses, and lower levels of stress hormones. There are plenty of interesting study results on the health benefits of love and social connectedness but here are a few of our very favorites:
- People in long-term couples have less depression and substance abuse. Having someone close to lean on acts as buffer against the trials and tribulations life throws at us and helps promote positive feelings.
- Strong social support improves cancer prognoses. Numerous studies have found that individuals with breast or ovarian cancer who had at least one close support person had lower death and recurrence rates. Social ties could be to spouses, community, friends, and/or children. The more connections, the better the prognosis.
- Hanging out with friends and family causes bursts of oxytocin, or the cuddle chemical. Oxytocin reduces blood pressure, decreases stress and reduces pain. Can’t argue with that!
- Having strong social relationships predicts a 50% chance increase in longevity! The positive impacts social connection has on our immune system and ability to cope with stress (and avoid the negative impact stress has on our cardiovascular health) all lead to a healthier life.
So, get out there and reap the benefits of love and connectedness – make some Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year plans with your loved ones!