Daily Archives: July 8, 2010

Bad Relationships Can Hurt… Literally

By Erica Zaiser

Jake and Vienna have called it quits. A recent, much talked about interview with the celebrity couple with the host of The Bachelor revealed numerous problems between the two. Each accused the other of being responsible for their irreconcilable problems and the dramatic interview included much yelling and many tears. It isn’t hard to see that such a stressful relationship could have lasting consequences on their emotional well-being.

Some research has demonstrated that marital relationships are linked to a number of both long and short-term physical health issues as well as emotional problems. According to Slatcher (2010), in a review of some of the research on marital relationships and physical health, there are two independent factors in marriage effecting health: marital strain (leading to negative health effects) and marital strength (which can have a positive impact on health).  Marriage has been linked to numerous physical responses including cardiovascular functioning, neuroendocrine output, and immunity; and marriage can even impact mortality rates. Although there is a great deal of research linking marriage to both positive and negative changes in physical health, the author argues that there is too little research explaining exactly what psychological processes occur in order to explain those changes.

News from CNN highlighted recent research which found that couples inflicted with small blisters who used hostile or aggressive communication styles healed more slowly than those couples that had better communication skills. They linked this to oxytocin levels which were higher in couples who used positive communication skills. This type of research gives some insight into the psychological processes which can explain the physiological effects of a relationship. So it is not the relationship itself, but the response to conflict within the relationship which is influencing physical well-being.

Read more: Slatcher, R. B. (2010). Marital Functioning and Physical Health: Implications for Social and Personality Psychology. Social and Personality Psychology Compass. 4, 455-469.

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