'Tis the season to be giving and receiving!
And no, I'm not talking about sex, although you wish I was. Actually, I'm talking about a recent UCLA study that shows providing support to a loved one offers health benefits to both the giver and the receiver. The study determined that a lot of the health benefits of social support actually come from the support we provide to others.
The scientists studied 20 heterosexual couples in stable relationships at UCLA's Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center. The women underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans while their boyfriends were just outside the scanner receiving painful electric shocks (honestly, who in their right mind would sign up for something like this?) At some points, the women were allowed to provide support by holding their boyfriends' arms, while at others, they had to watch them receive shocks without being able to do anything. Other times, the boyfriends did not receive a shock, and the women could choose whether or not to touch them.