Why Finding the Right Relationship Is Crucial for Your Health

Learn why just being near your significant other can boost endorphins and give you a feel-good high, and more

by Dr. Amir Levine and Rachel S. F. Heller, M.A • Authors of "Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find-And Keep-Love"
Photograph: Photo courtesy of Africa Studio/ Shutterstock.com

Eating your veggies and exercising regularly will get you quite far healthwise, but sometimes it's just not enough. A good relationship, while excellent for your psychological well-being, has perks beyond a happy heart. One factor, above all, can determine whether your relationship will be successful (or not) and that is your attachment style. If you and your partner mesh well and create a secure base, you stand to gain many, many benefits. We've outlined some of the ways that our relationships have been proven to impact our health below.

Stress Reduction: In an experiment using fMRI, James Coan of the University of Virginia found that for women anticipating a mild electric shock, holding the hand of a stranger somewhat reduced activation in areas of the brain responsible for stress.  However, when women held their husband's hand, stress was barely detectable at all.  A 2010 experiment found that men who were in a relationship had smaller spikes in cortisol levels than single men after taking part in a competitive game.

Lower Blood Pressure: A study by Brian Baker of the University of Toronto found, for example, that if you have a mild form of high blood pressure, being close to your spouse if you are in a good marriage lowers your blood pressure.   Unfortunately, the opposite is also true: Your partner can get your blood pressure to go through the roof if you're in a bad relationship.  In addition, researchers have found that blood pressure for married adults – especially those happily married – dipped more during sleep than other individuals.  Blood pressure remaining high during the night puts you at a greater risk of cardiovascular problems than people whose blood pressure dips, Holt-Lunstad said. 

Stronger Immune System and Faster Wound Healing:  As in many cases, this advantage is true for couples in a good relationship but not in hostile/unhappy ones.  In one experiment, when couples were instructed to either discuss enjoyable matters or to engage in a conflict-evoking conversation,it was found that during the latter, wounds took, on average, a full day longer to heal than after the sessions in which the couples discussed something pleasant. Among couples who exhibited especially high levels of hostility, the wounds took a full two days longer to heal than those of couples who had exhibited less animosity while fighting.

Longevity: According to a study by David Roelfs, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Louisville, Ky., the risk of death was 32 percent higher across a lifetime for single men compared to married men. Single women face a 23 percent higher mortality risk, compared to married women.  A different study found that married people are more than twice as likely as single people to be alive 15 years after coronary bypass surgery

Lowered risk for depression: This advantage is especially notable in women. It has also been found that married bipolar women have fewer and milder depressive episodes than their never-married counterparts.

A good relationship is like a Xanax mixed in with Oxycontin topped by a shot of vodka: Being close to your significant other when you're in a good relationship is a sure way to boost your endorphins and get a feel-good high. It turns out that just looking at a picture of our partner/spouse is enough to activate the reward center in out brain, the same area that gets activated when people use drugs or eat sweets.

Start out 2012 by discovering your (and your partner's!) attachment style at www.attachedthebook.com.

Single? Check out MORE Dating here!

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First Published January 24, 2012

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