When young people believe their parents love them, they tend to be healthier as adults, a new study suggests.
The report by two University of Arizona psychologists is based on interviews done in the 1950s with 87 Harvard undergraduates and then follow-up interviews 35 years later.
The students who gave their parents high ratings for loving characteristics showed levels of disease far lower than the students who gave their parents low ratings.
"We don't know how loving and caring the parents were. We only know what the perceptions were," said psychologist Gary Schwartz who collaborated on the study with Linda Russek.
The researchers ruled out other factors that might explain the correlation, including family history of disease and marital and smoking histories.
"Dr. Russek and I believe that the perception of love and caring may be as important _ if not more important _ as the moment-to-moment behavior of the parents in influencing our long-term health and well-being," Schwartz said.
The perception of love and caring may serve as a buffer against the stresses of everyday life, which can affect long-term health, he said.
"One of the take-home messages about this is that love really matters," Schwartz said.