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HEALTH MATTERS: New movie shows the healthy benefits of love

Did you know that on the average people need 90 seconds to four minutes to determine whether or not they are attracted to another person? Surprisingly, studies show that a large percentage of patterns of attraction are non-verbal.

The BBC Science and Nature reported that attraction is 55 percent body language; 38 percent voice speed and tone; and only 7 percent is verbal.

The science of love is complex and the explanation may not always seem scientific. The report adds that on a subconscious level we tend to be attracted to similar genetics and smell. Researchers are not talking about perfume or cologne, but a smell that reminds us of our parents.

Psychologist Robert Sternberg explains that a “perfect” love contains, at its root, three components:

• Intimacy: Feelings of attachment, closeness, typified by sharing secrets, etc.

• Passion: Feelings of sexual and romantic attraction.

• Commitment: The willingness in the short-term to create and maintain a relationship and long-term plans to sustain the relationship.

How does love link to health benefits?

“There is no evidence that the intense, passionate stage of a new romance is beneficial to health,” says Harry Reis, PhD, co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Human Relationships. “People who fall in love say it feels wonderful and agonizing at the same time.” All those ups and downs can be a source of stress.

It takes a calmer, more stable form of love to yield clear health benefits.

“There is very nice evidence that people who participate in satisfying, long-term relationships fare better on a whole variety of health measures,” Reis says.

Several researchers site 10 ways that love and health are linked:

• Fewer doctor’s visits. The Health and Human Services Department reported that married people have fewer doctor’s visits and shorter average hospital stays. “Nobody quite knows why loving relationships are good for health,” Reis says. “The best logic for this is that human beings have been crafted by evolution to live in closely knit social groups.

• Less depression and substance abuse. According to the Health and Human Services report, getting married and staying married reduces depression in both men and women.

• Lower blood pressure. A study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine found happily married people had the best blood pressure.

• Less anxiety. Researchers at the State University of New York at Stony Brook found that passionate new couples and strongly connected long-term couples both showed activation in a part of the brain associated with intense love. The study was presented at the 2008 conference of the Society for Neuroscience.

• Natural pain control. The CDC reported that long-term couples had more activation in the part of the brain that keeps pain under control.

• Better stress management. “If you’re facing a stressor and you’ve got the support of someone who loves you, you can cope better,” Reis says. “If you lose your job, for example, it helps emotionally and financially if a partner is there to support you.”

• Fewer colds. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that people who exhibit positive emotions are less likely to get sick after exposure to cold or flu viruses.

• Faster healing. Researchers at Ohio State University Medical Center gave married couples blister wounds. The wounds healed nearly twice as fast in spouses who interacted. The study was published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

• Longer life. One of the largest studies examines the effect of marriage on mortality during an eight-year period in the 1990s. Using data from the National Health Interview Survey, researchers found that people who had never been married were 58 percent more likely to die than married people.

“Loneliness is associated with all-cause mortality — dying for any reason,” Reis says. “Married people live longer because they feel loved and connected.”

• Happier life. A study in the Journal of Family Psychology shows happiness depends more on the quality of family relationships than on the level of income.


The new movie “Loving” is the story about the epitome of a calm, stable yet powerful love. It is about Richard Loving, white, and Mildred Jeter, black and Cherokee, who grew up together in a tight-knit, rural town in Virginia.

The two seemed to have a quiet and comfortable courtship. They enjoyed a simple life, companionship, similar family values and interests despite the obvious — race.

When she became pregnant, Richard boldly took the natural step and proposed marriage. Their joy quickly turned into stress and terror at the hands of the law in the state of Virginia. First comes love, then marriage was against the law, a felony, for interracial couples in Virginia. As a matter of fact, interracial marriages were banned in at least 16 additional states.

The options: the Lovings could divorce to avoid legal trouble; or remain married and avoid a jail sentence if they left Virginia, the only home they had known, for 25 years. Their love became a civil rights story and was ultimately handled by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

As the movie unfolds, you may notice that there was little conversation between the Loving couple but there is no denying that the three components to a “perfect” romantic love existed: intimacy, passion and commitment. There were many times that anger and stress could have overshadowed and jeopardized their love. Their calm, stable form of love and the decision to remain a family kept them from loud protest and reacting in a negative and radical way.

Lessons can be learned from watching the Loving couple’s silent strength and reluctant activism, brilliantly played by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga.

I had an opportunity to talk to both of the top stars, who surprisingly are not from the United States and were unfamiliar with the historic story. Edgerton, who played Richard, is from Australia and underwent an amazing transformation from his speech to his hair and teeth.

Negga played the unassuming Mildred who, in her own way, was able to move forward the ACLU’s agenda to bring them justice in a diplomatic and effective way without comprising her husband’s comfort level. Negga is part Ethopian and Irish. Her Irish accent is strong but her ease to channel Mildred in an unforgettable way is noteworthy.

Both Edgerton and Negga gave award-winning performances and life to a story that resonates for couples in love around the world who face legalities that have no business in their love life.

The ACLU had a huge challenge with the Loving case but saw it through to the Supreme Court and America had to take a good look at the injustice in the name of love. In 1967, they won the battle and interracial couples were allowed to marry. However, hate still exists — for interracial and same-sex unions.

What is love?  For a great example, see “Loving” in selected theaters across the country.




Psychology Today –

Encyclopedia of Human Relationships –

Health and Human Services Department –

Journal of Family Psychology –

Carnegie Mellon University –

Society for Neuroscience –

Loving –


Marie Y. Lemelle, MBA, a public relations consultant, is the owner of Platinum Star PR and can be reached on Twitter @PlatinumStar or Instagram @PlatinumStarPR. Send “Health Matters” related questions to and look for her column in The Wave.