All You Need is Love?: Author Explains Why Love Outweighs Exercise

"The Rabbit Effect" by Kelli Harding, M.D.
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If you have to choose between eating salad in front of the TV, or pizza with pals, science says pass the pepperoni. The Rabbit Effect, by psychiatrist Kelli Harding, M.D., reveals that our social connections have major impacts on longevity and wellness.

Your book says life purpose, friendship, love, and community shape people’s health. Which is most important?

Love. Not physical romance or sex, but positive support that stays with us long after the person who offered it left the room. Studies show it lowers stress hormones, helps immunity and blood pressure, lessens depression and anxiety, and even helps cuts heal faster.

So love spurs us to make healthy choices?

Yes, but it also causes physical changes. The science is mind-boggling. Friendship, community, love, and purpose change biology. Genetics research shows, on a microscopic level, how workplaces, neighborhoods, and relationships alter cells, changing how many years we live and whether we’re sick or well.

The book equates loneliness with smoking. How do scientists measure that?

Public health experts follow people for years and record what happens to them. It turns out, folks who are chronically lonely have more heart attacks, strokes, and die younger. Using statistics, scientists compare the risks of emotions like loneliness with other with risks for premature death. Studies suggest that prolonged loneliness is like smoking 15 cigarettes a day or heavy alcohol use.

That’s a dire prognosis! What’s the antidote?

Fostering relationships. Bonding time with friends and family is as important as exercise, diet, and sleep. It’s not how many push-ups you can do but who you do them with.