Feelings of romantic love, long considered to be a metaphorical cure for life’s ills, may actually result in genetic changes that boost women’s immune systems — according to exciting new research from scholars at Tulane University.
“What we found was that women who fell in love had increased activity of genes involved in antiviral defenses, compared to when they began the study,” said Tulane assistant professor Damian Murray, one of the leads on the research. “No similar change was observed in women who did not fall in love.”
Over the course of 12 months, researchers monitored 47 female students at the University of California who had recently begun new romantic relationships but said they had not yet fallen in love with their partners. They drew blood from the women at the start of the project to get a baseline estimation of their antiviral defenses, with subsequent blood draws to be performed after a participant reported falling in love. If the participant broke up with their partner, they also completed a third and final blood draw. Remarkably, the research found that women who said they had fallen in love also had significantly boosted immune responses compared to the baseline.
According to Murray, the boost could be “a kind of a proactive response to anticipating future intimate contact, given that most viruses are spread via close physical contact” or the result of “biological preparation of the body for pregnancy.” Loneliness, he added, is also strongly correlated with significant negative health consequences. But women in the study, surprisingly, saw no significant changes in self-reported loneliness or depressive symptoms between when they started the study and when they said they fell in love.
Read the full story at Futurity.