While we all know about the positive impact that having a positive romantic relationship has on emotional health, turns out it can also save lives. A study found that a consistent and supportive partner could actually lower risk for a host of health problems in women fighting breast cancer.
In a study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, it was found that a healthy romantic relationship could actually help lower psychological stress which is crucial for breast cancer fighters.
The low risk of stress actually decreases the inflammation in their body making them recover faster. This is why keeping inflammation at bay is key to promoting health generally, and especially in breast cancer fighters.
How did the research start?
For understanding the impact of a supportive romantic partner on their physical health, researchers analysed 139 women with an average age of 55 through self-report questionnaires and took blood samples at three visits—upon recruitment, within one to three months of their cancer diagnosis, and during two follow-up visits six and 18 months after their cancer treatment ended.
To understand the degree of relationship satisfaction, they created a survey assessing relationship satisfaction by asking the women to report their degree of happiness, the level of warmth and comfort they felt with their partner, how rewarding the relationship was and their overall satisfaction.
The breast cancer fighters also filled in a questionnaire to evaluate the degree of psychological stress they felt during a whole week.
To understand that the impact was particularly caused by them having a loving relationship, they analysed samples for levels of four proteins that promote inflammation throughout the body even when there is no need for an immune response.
What did they find?
After intensive study, researchers found that there was a clear trend for breast cancer fighters as a collective. Basically the more they were satisfied and felt safe in a romantic relationship, the lower were their perceived stress and their inflammation levels.
The study lead author from the Ohio State University, Rosie Shroutv stated that: “Our findings suggest that this close partnership can boost their bond as a couple and also promote survivors’ health even during a very stressful time when they’re dealing with cancer.”
Interestingly, the levels of stress also varies during different phases of the relationship for an individual. “This gave us a unique perspective–we found that when a woman was particularly satisfied with her relationship, she had lower stress, and lower inflammation than usual–lower than her own average,” Shrout said.
The levels of individuals feeling stress also varied with every medical visit showing that the impact of the relationship changes with an evolving relationship.
Although we know that reduced physical stress decreases inflammation in our body, how could it save us from bigger issues? Well, inflammation is a silent tornado. This kind of chronic inflammation is linked to numerous health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as the frailty and functional decline that can accompany ageing.
While we all know the phenomenal power of love, this research is helping us see the slow and steady impact it has on actually helping save lives. A strong and loving relationship can help breast cancer fighters immensely. Fostering a healthy bond of trust and safety can actually save them from a host of health risks and help “promote their health over the long run,” Shroutv concluded.
(with inputs from IANS)