Love is one of the most powerful, yet misunderstood, human emotions. It compels us and confounds us. Love binds us and transcends culture, race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. It’s no wonder hundreds, even thousands, of self-help books and advice columns have been dedicated to exploiting our insatiable appetite for unconditional love and acceptance. But what do we really know about love? Fortunately, this isn’t an advice column that promises to unlock the secrets of ever-lasting, unconditional love. But, check out these 7 intriguing, yet scientific, facts about L-O-V-E.
1. Love is the top reason why Americans choose to marry.
According to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, 88% of Americans said love was a very important reason for getting married, while making a lifelong commitment (81%) and companionship (76%) came in second and third.
2. Being in love has the same effect on the brain as cocaine.
MRI scans show that when people see their lovers the area at the center of the brain is flooded with dopamine–a neurotransmitter that stimulates feelings of pleasure, attraction, and motivation. Once flooded, the area sends signals for more dopamine. The more dopamine you get, the higher you feel. This same process is activated when you take a hit of cocaine.
3. Apparently, romantic love only lasts a year.
Italian scientists from the University of Pavia found significantly higher levels of nerve growth factor (NGF) proteins in individuals who just started relationships. These proteins are linked to feelings of euphoria and dependence and tend to cause the physical tell-tale signs of falling in love–e.g. Butterflies, sweaty palms, fluttering heart. However, after a year, NGF levels returned to normal. According to the report’s co-author, Piergluigi Politi, “The love became more stable. Romantic love seemed to have ended”.
4. More and more Americans are searching for love online.
Online dating sites and mobile dating apps have truly changed the dating game for those seeking love. A 2015 Pew Research Study found that 15% of American adults have used an online dating site or mobile dating app, up from 11% in 2013.
5. Love at first sight, is really lust at first sight.
Despite what rom-coms and romantic novels may depict, a recent set of studies suggests that people who experienced a strong physical attraction to their potential lover were more likely to report love at first sight. When questioned about their “love at first sight” experience, their feelings did not reflect the three components of love: intimacy, passion, and commitment. Instead, “love at first sighters” feelings were more comparable to lust.
6. Love may really be blind.
Scientists at the University College of London found that love can actually suppress activities in the brain that control critical thought, which reduces capacity to make negative judgments regarding our lovers. This is why some people do not leaving cheating partners despite clear signs and evidence of infidelity.
7. Heartbreak can literally kill you.
Broken Heart Syndrome, medically known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy, can cause severe, short-term heart failure. Those with Broken Heart Syndrome can experience chest pain, shortness of breath, and irregular heartbeat. In the most severe cases, individuals can experience cardiogenic shock, a condition in which the weakened heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Cardiogenic shock can be fatal if not treated immediately.