Summary: According to a recently published study on how stress is affected when in the presence of, or thinking about your romantic partner, it helps to be in love. 

In the recent study, published in the journal, Psychophysiology, 102 participants were required to complete a task that will add stress to them – getting into really cold water. Blood pressure, heart rate and heart rate variability before, during and after was measured and each participant was randomly assigned one of the following three scenarios during the task:

  1. Having a romantic partner present
  2. Simply thinking about their romantic partner
  3. Thinking about their day

Heart rate and heart rate variability did not vary between the three groups but blood pressure was affected. The participants who had their partner present or who were thinking about their partner while in the cold water had a lower blood pressure than those thinking about their day. “This suggests that one way being in a romantic relationship might support people’s health is through allowing people to better cope with stress and lower levels of cardiovascular reactivity to stress across the day,” University of Arizona psychology doctoral student, Kyle Bourassa, said. “And it appears that thinking of your partner as a source of support can be just as powerful as actually having them present.”

“Life is full of stress, and one critical way we can manage this stress is through our relationships – either with our partner directly or by calling on a mental image of that person,” according to Bourassa. “There are many situations, including at work, with school exams or even during medical procedures, where we would benefit from limiting our degree of blood pressure reactivity, and these findings suggest that a relational approach to doing so can be quite powerful.”