Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Monday, June 14, 2010

Marriage May Be Hazardous to Your Health

I knew it!  From CNN:

A new study from Ohio State University shows just how physically harmful it can be to argue the wrong way. In the study, 37 married couples were brought into a hospital research lab, and a tiny vacuum device gave them eight 8-mm blisters on their forearms. Each couple was then videotaped while having conversations, and researchers graded them on their communication skills, noting who had distressing or hostile styles of communicating.

After 12 days, the researchers noticed that the blisters healed faster on the couples who had more positive communication styles, and the blisters healed the slowest on the couples with more negative styles.

Why would physical wounds heal more quickly among the better communicators? The researchers at Ohio State who did the study think it might have something to do with oxytocin.

"Oxytocin is a protective hormone," says Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, the lead author of the study, who noted that the better communicators in her study -- the ones whose wounds healed the fastest -- had the highest levels of oxytocin in their blood.

The study was recently published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

"People get very surprised when they hear that marital stress is actually worse for your health than workplace stress," says Tara Parker-Pope, author of "For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage."

Overall, couples with more marital stress have worse immune function and higher blood pressure and heart rates, according to Debra Umberson, a professor of sociology at the University of Texas, who studies couples and stress.

"Marital stress is so pernicious because it's chronic, long-term, and you can't get away from it," she says "You're having these problems day in and day out year after year, decade after decade."

While both sexes suffer, some, but not all, studies show women suffer more physical effects from a bad marriage than men, Umberson adds.

Read the full story here.


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