ARTICLES

Love and Health


Happy young couple

Happy older couple

Health and fitness is big business. In the United States alone, health and fitness generates roughly $26 billion dollars a year ($80 billion worldwide). You would be hard pressed to scroll down your social media page and not find targeted ads inundating you with the latest training apps, boot camp classes, yoga sessions, or any myriad of options pertaining to health and fitness. Turn on your television. Look! Now there’s a pill out there that promises to enhance your life. Or there is a food that you can eat 5 times a day that promises longevity. These trends are everywhere. Companies are quick to post statistics in which their ingredients help cut cholesterol and improve cardiovascular health. Supplements promise you’ll live longer by shedding stubborn belly fat. Despite the fact that Integrative Fitness Club, LLC is the best health and wellness service in the history of earth, other companies are constantly making promises and claims that their services will enhance and extend your life. But none of these companies take into account the single greatest factor for a good healthy life: LOVE.

Two girlfriends

Love can be described as a feeling of strong or constant affection. As previously discussed in the article How Emotions Affect the Body, we know that emotions have a tangible physical affect on our physiology. Love is considered the strongest emotion we feel. Harvard University has recently published the findings of the Grant and Glueck study, an ongoing nearly 80-year research endeavor that tracks the emotional and physical well being of two distinct groups: 456 poor people in Boston from 1939 – 2014 (Grant Study), and 268 graduates from Harvard’s classes of 1939–1944 (Glueck study). Following both groups for decades and measuring physical wellness via blood samples, brain scans, surveys etc. the conclusions become distinctly clear: As Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development simply puts it, “The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.” Love and positivity are the basis for a long healthy life. George Vaillant, who directed the study for more that three decades, came to the ultimate conclusion that, “warmth of relationships throughout life has the greatest positive impact on 'life satisfaction.'" He finished his analysis by simply stating, “Happiness is love. Full stop.”

Tennis friends

Friends sharing a meal

Other notable findings from the Grant and Glueck Study:

-Financial success depends on warmth of relationships and, above a certain level, not on intelligence

-Political mindedness correlates with intimacy: Aging liberals have more sex

-The warmth of childhood relationship with mothers matters long into adulthood

-According to Vaillant, there are two foundational elements to the project: "One is love. The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away."

-When the focus is on what you can give, rather than what you can get, the relationship becomes a gift to both of you

-The exact science and microbiology pertaining to love and health is still ongoing, but the results are quite evident

Mother and daughter love

Some people may interpret this data and find themselves seeking out a romantic relationship. The relationship itself is unimportant. The quality of the bond is the significant factor. It is much better to be single than to be in an unfulfilling or toxic relationship. A single person with good friendships and loving family will experience more happiness and longevity than a married person in a miserable situation. In fact, there have been numerous studies that show people do not become significantly happier after marriage. There is a boost in life satisfaction around the time of the wedding, but shortly after that, satisfaction returns to the same level as when they were single. There have been other studies showing that the quality of life increases for many women after divorce, and that women fair much better while single than men do. The theory is that women are allowed to break free from traditional roles when they are single. One researcher even found that women in their 60s who had never married or had kids, enjoyed as good of health and longevity if they had a strong social network.

So viola! There you have it. Eat your unseasoned kale and broccoli. Drink your nasty alkaline water. Get 10 hour of sleep at night. Whatever… does not matter if you do not connect with and appreciate other people. The data is clear: wealth, marriage, great doctors, relatives who lived to 100, a large social media following etc. does not matter. Good quality in depth friendships and relationships are the key to aging gracefully and longevity. So thank you for reading friend. I love you. *hugs*