Love Good For Your Health

Love is great for your health – and our doctors aren’t telling us often enough.  If you are living surrounded by family and friends with loving close relationships you’ll get fewer colds, live longer, recover better from major illness and even get fewer blocked arteries.

That’s the conclusion drawn from thousands of research studies drawn together in Love And Survival – the Healing Power of Intimacy, by integrative medicine pioneer Dean Ornish MD.

Close Friendships Key

You don’t necessarily have to be married to enjoy the benefits of close social networks, but you do need to have close friends and at least one “confidante” – a trusted person who can share your deepest feelings and concerns.

In addition it’s important to have a wider circle of relationships – recreational clubs, church, or volunteer groups – where you can make a contribution and enjoy companionship.

More Blessed To Give

The human body is wired to give to others it seems – adding new meaning to the old Biblical admonition that it is “more blessed to give than receive”.

Amongst the fascinating studies outlined by Dr Ornish:

  • Amongst a group deliberately infected with the common cold virus, those with six or more good relationships were four times less likely to develop a cold than those with only one to three contacts.
  • Socially isolated men were four times more likely to die after a heart attack than those with good networks.
  • Rabbits on a high cholesterol diet who were regularly stroked and petted had 60% less plaque in their arteries that those who were ignored and not given personal attention.
  • Women with breast cancer who joined a weekly support group lived on average twice as long as women who did not have a support group.

Foster Family and Friends

The conclusion to be drawn? If you are in a traditional family, treasure your spouse and other close relationships; encourage shared meals, offer support in practical ways.

If you do not have a spouse or live-in partner, you can ensure you are part of strong social networks by fostering close friendships, joining cultural, recreational or religious groups of personal interest, and offering support to others who are younger, older, or vulnerable.

(One study showed many Type A men who had suffered a heart attack did not get the support they needed from their wives because they’d married women who were also Type A high achievers and were busy trying to get unconditional love for themselves. Those who got that support from a hospital support group did much better than those who were isolated.)

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