CBS News brings us an interesting study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, which makes a connection between hostile marital interactions and wound healing.
CBS medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay says researchers at Ohio State University has [sic] been looking at the effects of stress on the immune system for years.
They’ve designed a system that wounds the body by creating blisters on the arm. Using what they call blister chambers, the researchers carefully control the wounds, and monitor the blisters’ healing by taking samples of the body’s biological immune response and chemicals involved in the healing process, Senay explains.
A study in the Archives of General Psychiatry looks at 42 couples who’ve been married an average of 12 years. The blister chamber was administered twice during two months. The first time, the couple discussed a supportive, positive topic. But the second time, they were urged to talk about an area of disagreement with an emotional element to it.
The researchers found the stress of arguing for a half-hour slowed the body’s ability to heal from their wounds by one day. Couples’ blister wounds healed more slowly and local cytokine production (IL-6, tumor necrosis factor , and IL-1) was lower at wound sites following marital conflicts than after social support interactions. Couples who demonstrated consistently higher levels of hostile behaviors across both their interactions healed at 60% of the rate of low-hostile couples. High-hostile couples also produced relatively larger increases in plasma IL-6 and tumor necrosis factor values the morning after a conflict than after a social support interaction compared with low-hostile couples.
The researchers add that the findings provide important recommendations for patients facing surgery, and show why it’s important for people to be psychologically prepared for surgery. They suggest there’s now enough evidence for hospitals to implement stress-reducing strategies before surgery. Such stress reduction techniques might lead to shorter hospital stays and a reduced risk of infections among patients, Senay says.