This article originally appeared on Real Simple.
Being in a relationship is about more than a shared Netflix account. Pairing up is actually good for your mind, bones, and heart (literally!). Here’s how a healthy relationship can affect your physical health and happiness.
Marriage may mean stronger bones.
Research suggests that marriage could affect you to the bone—literally. A paper published in the journal Osteoporosis International showed that married men tend to have higher bone density than unmarried ones. The University of California, Los Angeles researchers also found that, while marriage itself didn’t necessarily have a major impact on women’s bone density, being happily married did. Female study participants who reported being coupled with a supportive spouse also had better bones.
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Kissing your loved one could reduce stress.
Pucker up—kissing may activate chemicals that bust stress. Researchers at Lafayette College had couples kiss for 15 minutes while listening to music, the Associated Press reported. Both women and men saw a decrease in cortisol, the stress hormone, after the smooching session. The bottom line? Lip-locking with your loved one may just be the cure for a rough day.
Your spouse can make you more successful at your career.
Hitching up with a reliable partner might help you perform better and stay happier at your job. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found that conscientiousness partners led to higher salaries, more promotions, and overall increased satisfaction at the office for their mates. “Our study shows that it is not only your own personality that influences the experiences that lead to greater occupational success, but that your spouse’s personality matters too,” Joshua Jackson, PhD, lead author of the study said in a statement.
Being in a relationship may improve your body image.
Women in happy relationships tend to have a more positive body image, according to research from Tallinn University in Estonia, Women’s Health reports. The survey concluded that no matter how close a woman is to her target weight, being a part of a self-reported satisfying relationship was linked to having a higher self-esteem about one’s body.
Your partner may make it easier for you to adopt healthier habits.
Your romantic partner may be able to help you change your bad habits into good ones. A study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that men and women were both around 40 percent more likely to increase how much physical activity they got when their partner did. Smokers were also about 40 percent more likely to quit smoking when their partner quit as well. In other words, if you want to jump on the health train, get your romantic partner on board, too.
Marriage can be good for your heart.
And not only in a romantic way. Research shows that married people seem to be less likely to develop heart disease than unmarried people. Researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center looked at surveys of more than 3.5 million people and found married couples had a five percent lower chance of having cardiovascular disease. Divorced couples could face health risks of their own. The surveys also showed that divored people are more likely to smoke, a habit that raises the risk of cardiovascular problems.
These findings could change the way doctors treat patients. “If one of my patients is recently widowed or divorced,” Jeffrey Berger, MD, MS, director of cardiovascular thrombosis programs, said in a statement. “I’m increasingly vigilant about examining that patient for signs of any type of cardiovascular disease and depression.”
But that’s no reason to stay in an unhappy marriage, which research suggests can lead to an increase in heart issues, including heart attacks, rapid heart rates, and strokes. The results hold true even for those who have been married for decades, so only stay in a relationship that truly makes you happy.