Study finds hormone that predicts how long love will last

Here's a romantic idea for Valentine's Day: Get your hormones checked. A new study shows that one in particular can indicate how long a relationship will last.
Written by Laura Shin, Contributor

The first blush of love always brings with it a question: How long will this last?

Instead of facing uncertainty, you and your honey could get a straight answer if you checked your oxytocin levels.

New research shows that when oxytocin, often called the "cuddle hormone," is present in high levels during courtship, the relationship is likely to last. Oxytocin is known for helping to build trust and further bonding and attachment not only between lovers, but also between parents and their children.

The study, published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, tested the oxytocin levels of 163 people in their early to mid-20s, 120 of whom had just begun a love relationship, on average, about two-and-a-half months prior.

“New lovers had substantially higher plasma levels of oxytocin, as compared to non-attached singles,” wrote the researchers, led by Inna Schneiderman of the Gonda Brain Sciences Center of Israel’s Bar-Ilan University. “These findings are consistent with those reported for other mammals, particularly monogamous rodent species in which oxytocin has shown to play a critical role in the formation of pair bonds.”

Because the researchers did not check oxytocin levels before the relationships began, it's not clear whether the flush of love increased the oxytocin levels or if “individuals with high levels of oxytocin are more likely to fall in love,” they said.

However, they did test the 36 couples who were still together six months later and found that they still have the same high level of oxytocin.

Most strikingly, “Couples who stayed together showed higher oxytocin levels at the initial period of romantic attachment” than those who broke up. “These findings suggest that oxytocin in the first months of romantic love may serve as an index of relationship duration,” the researchers said.

Additionally, during the initial tests, the researchers interviewed the lovers about their relationship and observed them in conversation. Higher oxytocin levels correlated with higher “interactive reciprocity,” or their tendency to respond to and affectionately touch one another.

In fact, oxytocin seems to beget more oxytocin. The researchers note that “research in mammals showed that more touch and contact increased oxytocin receptor density,” which would mean that loving couples touch each other and reciprocate touching more, which keeps their oxytocin levels up, which then feeds their emotional connection.

So, this Valentine's Day, after the flowers, candelit dinner and wine, don't forget to boost those oxytocin levels with some cuddling.

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