Monday, December 05, 2005

Be Nice

Heard this on the radio earlier today. HealthCentral:
MONDAY, Dec. 5 (HealthDay News) -- A word of caution for couples who routinely communicate through a sharp word and a slammed door: A bad marriage is bad for your health.

A new study suggests that spouses engaged in hostile relationships have consistently elevated stress levels that significantly impede their bodies' wound-healing capacity.

Blissful honeymooners are not, however, completely immune to the stress effect. Otherwise happy partners will find their healing abilities similarly diminished -- although to a lesser degree -- following spikes in stress that accompany occasional spats.

Proof of this apparent mind-body connection, researchers say, could have a major impact on the emphasis caregivers place on improving a patient's frame of mind prior to surgery, in order to optimize the recovery process.


During the first session, the couples were asked to engage in two 10-minute supportive discussions regarding something each spouse wanted to change about himself or herself.

During the second session, the couples discussed marital topics -- such as money or in-laws -- specially selected to provoke an argument.

Both sessions were videotaped and analyzed for evidence of hostility. Questionnaires were also completed before and after, to gauge both hostility levels and general marital satisfaction.

To monitor the discussion's impact on healing, the researchers created eight tiny blisters on the arms of each spouse prior to the conversations. After removing the wounded skin, the blisters were covered to measure the rise and fall of reparative fluids -- such as pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are critical to the healing process. Blood samples were also drawn.

The researchers found that blisters healed more slowly following argumentative conversations than after supportive discussions.

In addition, generally hostile couples also experienced a slower healing process -- following both non-supportive and supportive talks -- than friendlier couples.

Highly hostile couples experienced healing rates that were only 60 percent of those experienced by less-hostile spouses, the study found.


The researchers concluded that both short-term and long-term stress related to hostile interactions between spouses contributes to a considerable slowing of the healing process, as well as a simultaneous rise in the risk for developing serious physical and mental illness.

They further noted that because at-home spousal battles are most probably longer and nastier than the study session conversations, the findings are likely to underestimate the full negative impact of hostility.
It's good to see research being done on such subjects. I've seen a large amount of anecdotal evidence along these lines, but now we have some hard data. Researchers are also considering these results with pre-operative procedures in stress management in mind.


At 5:11 AM, Blogger Lynne said...

It is nice to see western medicine finally catching on to the mind/body connection.

An entire field open to them would be to study the detrimental effects of working for an asshole. And the effects that poverty has on health. Being really poor is incredibly stressful.


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