More threads by Eunoia


Love Hurts? So Does a Wounded Marriage
Reuters Health, Michael Conlon

CHICAGO (Reuters), December 5, 2005 - There is even more proof that an unhappy marriage is bad for your health, researchers reported on Monday.

The stress that comes from discord appears to slow the initial production of a blood protein that is key to healing wounds, the report from Ohio State University said.

Quarreling couples studied in a laboratory setting had a slower wound healing process than when they were not arguing, as measured by how rapidly blisters healed. The blisters were deliberately inflicted on the test subjects by using a vacuum pump on the arm.

"Couples who demonstrated consistently higher levels of hostile behaviors ... healed at 60 percent of the rate of low-hostile couples," said the report published in the December issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

The authors said there is already a sizable body of research showing that marital disagreement causes adverse health impacts ranging from high blood pressure and depression to the ability to cope with heart disease and heart failure.

"Although loss of a spouse can provoke adverse mental and physical health changes, the simple presence of a spouse is not necessarily protective. A troubled marriage is itself a prime source of stress," the study said.

The Ohio State study involved 42 married couples, aged 22 to 77. They were tested twice - first in a social setting and then again when they were told to get into disagreements.

The authors said stress appears to slow the local, wound-site production of proinflammatory cytokines - protein molecules produced by white blood cells that play a key role in the early stages of healing.

But the study also found that couples with high degrees of conflict had higher levels of the same cytokines generally in the bloodstream the morning after an argument, compared to those who were not in as much disagreement.

While greater early production at wound sites is beneficial, the authors said, a higher systemic level is harmful.

"Elevated levels of proinflammatory cytokines have been linked to a variety of age-related disease, including cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, arthritis ... certain cancers, and frailty and functional decline," the study said. "Moreover, inflammatory activation can enhance development of depressive symptoms."

SOURCE: Archives of General Psychiatry, December 2005.


"The Ohio State study involved 42 married couples, aged 22 to 77. They were tested twice - first in a social setting and then again when they were told to get into disagreements."

Hmmm...I dunno about this study. The participants were "told" to get into arguments? How do you do that? You don't stage arguments to prove a theory in a laboratory setting. That would render the experiment invalid, or am I mistaken? If they only argued b/c of being told to, then the results would be biased/skewed, plus the physiological responses would be inaccurate. A staged argument would not produce the same chemical & emotional changes within the human body as a true argument. Anyone have a clue about this?--Poohbear

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Not necessarily, poohbear.

I can tell you that in doing couples therapy it isn't difficult to find a topic that withour care will quickly escalate into a full-blown argument, and from the observer's standpoint I doubt that there's much difference between that argument and one about the same issue at home - except I keep the plant pots safely out of the way.


Maybe it's just me, but I would feel really inhibited having a full blown argument infront of someone, or at least where I knew someone was watching. I suppose there is a way to weed out participants that may feel this way?--Poohbear


Everybody has a "button" that can be pushed to elicit an angry response. In the case of married couples, particularly those who have been married for awhile, each knows the other's "button". I don't think it would be difficult, at all, to get a rather healthy row going, even in the presence of others. ;)
Replying is not possible. This forum is only available as an archive.