Valentine's Day is upon us, and what better time to reflect on the many benefits of being in love? Of course the emotional benefits are no secret, but there is a vast wealth of research showing the physical and mental benefits of coupledom.
Here, 10 healthy reasons to celebrate love, marriage, relationships and everything in between:
1. Married people are less likely to have a heart attack. Sure: eating well, exercising and not smoking are all the best ways to protect yourself from having a heart attack. But research in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology also shows that being married could be a protective factor all its own.
The study analyzed heart attack rates (both fatal and nonfatal) among married and unmarried people living in Finland, and showed that married men and women were less likely to have, or die from, a heart attack, compared with their single peers.
2. Married gay, lesbian and bisexual couples have better mental health than their unmarried counterparts. Married gay couples experience less psychosocial distress than their single peers, according to a joint study by University of California, Los Angeles, and San Francisco State University researchers. The findings, published in the American Journal of Public Health, are based on interviews with 47,000 straight and LGBT people.
3. People who wed live longer than those who don't. Getting married to your honey -- instead of just living with him or her -- can actually improve your longevity, according to Michigan State University research. The study, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, found that white men and women who are married live longer than cohabitors, though the researchers did not find such an association in African American men and women.
4. Long-term relationships mean better mental health for women, better physical health for men. And not only that, but the benefits increase as time goes on, according to an editorial published in the student British Medical Journal. However, research from Cardiff University acknowledged that relationships can have negative effects too -- particularly when it's a strained one.
5. Married men are happier than bachelors. The single life may not be all it's cracked up to be, according to a study from Michigan State University researchers. They found that men who get married are happier in their marriages than if they'd remained bachelors, Men's Health reported.
"People, on average, aren’t happier following marriage than they were before marriage, but they are happier than they would have been if they stayed single," study researcher Stevie C. Y. Yap, who is a doctoral candidate in psychology at the university, told Men's Health.
6. People who are married recover better after surgery. Not only is marriage good for the figurative heart, it could also help the heart organ heal better after surgery, according to research in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. The study, conducted by researchers at Emory and Rutgers universities, shows that married people have a three times higher survival rate post-heart surgery, compared with single people.
7. Living with your beau improves well-being. Researchers from Cornell University found that people who are married or live with their boyfriends or girlfriends are happier and experience less depression than single people, HealthDay reported. However, interestingly enough, unmarried people who live together experience greater happiness and self-esteem than those who are married, according to the study in the Journal of Marriage and Family.
8. People in committed relationships have less production of stress hormones. Whether you're married or not, being in a committed relationship is linked with less production of the stress hormone cortisol, according to a study from University of Chicago researchers.
"These results suggest that single and unpaired individuals are more responsive to psychological stress than married individuals, a finding consistent with a growing body of evidence showing that marriage and social support can buffer against stress," study researcher Dario Maestripieri wrote in the study, published in the journal Stress.
9. Married women have healthier hearts. Research presented at a meeting of the American Sociological Association shows that women who are married -- and stay married -- have fewer risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, LiveScience reported. However, the effect was not seen for men -- in fact, men who married young had higher risks for inflammation, the researchers found.
10. Having a healthy significant other can make you more likely to be healthy, too. Researchers from the University of Minnesota Medical School found that when your beau is healthy -- exercising regularly, eating lots of fruits and vegetables and maintaining a healthy weight -- you're also more likely to have these healthy behaviors.
The findings, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, "suggest the protective nature of the significant other with regard to weight-related health behaviors of young adults, particularly for young adult women," the researchers wrote.