Hostility Level in a Marriage Affects Healing Rate
A recent report
indicates that married couples who interact with higher levels of hostility
experience lower rates of wound healing than couples with lower rates of
hostility. During the study, a nurse drew blood and then attached a vacuum pump
to each participant’s arm, causing a blister to develop. This was done during
two 24-hour hospital stays.
After the first
blood draw, the couples were instructed to discuss things about themselves that
they wanted to change. They were told to ask for help from and to offer help to
their spouses. After the second blood draw, couples were asked to try to resolve
one or two conflicts they had had in their marriage.
determined the levels of hostility in the marriages by observing the couples’
behavior. Results showed that blisters healed more slowly after the second
discussion, when the couples were trying to resolve a conflict, than they did
after the first discussion, when couples were trying to help each other. Among
the more hostile couples, wounds healed at only 60 percent of the rate of
couples who were the least hostile.
discovered that the couples who had low levels of hostility secreted higher
levels of proteins called cytokines to the wounds. Cytokines play an important
role in healing. On the other hand, the couples with higher hostility levels had
higher levels of cytokines in their blood, which can increase the risk for heart
disease and other health problems.
Archives of General Psychiatry, December 2005.