Emotion, Social Relationships, and Health

Emotion, Social Relationships, and Health

Emotion, Social Relationships, and Health

Emotion, Social Relationships, and Health

Synopsis

A growing literature, in humans and animals, documents linkages between social integration and affiliative relationships and a variety of health and disease outcomes, including mortality. The actual mechanisms through which these efforts occur are, however, not well understood. Emotion likely plays a central role in mediating connections between relational experiences, underlying neurobiological processes, and health outcomes. Many prior studies have focused on the size and proximity of social networks, thereby neglecting their emotional features. When studied, emotion in social relationships has also been heavily weighted on the side of negative and conflicting interactions, thus giving minimal attention to the possible protective benefits of enduring love, nurturing, and affection. This volume brings together, for the fist time, these differing lines of inquiry to advance understanding of how emotion in significant social relationships influences health. The collection integrates knowledge from those with expertise in mapping the nature of emotional experience in human relations with those who are linking social ties to health outcomes, and those who explicate underlying neurobiological mechanisms. A main message of the book is that full explication of how emotion, social relationships, and health are woven together demands multidisciplinary inquiry. To this end, the volume brings together leading experts from fields of affective science, clinical and social psychology, epidemiology, psychiatry, psychoneuroimmunology, psychoneuroendocrinology, and health to promote the above synthesis. Some address how to formulate, observe, and evaluate social interactions in clinical, laboratory, or daily life contexts. Others link emotional experience in significant social relationships to health outcomes or intervening biological parameters. Still others manipulate social environments or exposure to health challenge to assess impact on respiratory infections and immune function. Collectively, each contributes different pieces to the larger puzzle that connects emotion in social relationships to health. Recurrent themes include the importance of attending to: (1) both positive and negative emotional experience in significant social relationships and how they influence underlying mechanisms; (2) cumulative emotional experience--namely, the repeated, chronic nature of socioemotional experience (both positive and negative); (3) gender differences in how emotion in social relationships is experienced and how it effects underlying mechanisms involved in health outcomes; and (4) the need for multiple methodologies to advance the emotion, social relationships, and health agenda.

Excerpt

This volume emerged from the Third Annual Wisconsin Symposium on Emo-tion, which was held in Madison in 1997. the purpose of this symposium on “Emotion, Social Relationships, and Health” was to build bridges between the ever-expanding field of emotion research and the large body of literature that documents linkages between social relationships and health. Epidemiological studies have shown connections between social isolation or lack of social support and increased risk of various disease outcomes and reduced length of life (Berkman & Breslow, 1983; House, Landis, & Umberson, 1988; Seeman, 1996; Seeman, Berkman, Blazer, & Rowe, 1994; Uchino, Cacioppo, & Kiecolt-Glaser, 1996). While emotion is sometimes part of such inquiries (for example, the inclusion of limited questions about whether individuals feel they have someone to talk to in time of need), most studies have focused on the amount (that is, number of individuals, frequency of contact) of those in the social network, not on the day-to day emotional experience ensuing from ties to significant others. This is the starting point for the present volume: we aim to dig more deeply into the nature of emotional interaction with significant others and its role in illuminating the established ties between social relationships and health.

To examine how emotion may play a key role in the social relations—health nexus requires multiple forms of expertise, and it demands the synthesis of multiple avenues of prior inquiry, each of which has evolved as a largely separate scientific agenda. the goal here is to weave these strands together. First, we must incorporate insights and recent advances from the growing field of emotion research, giving particular emphasis to those who probe the emotional texture of social relationships (e.g., Berscheid & Reis, 1998; Carstensen, Gottman, & Levensen, 1995; Carstensen, Graff, Levensen, & Gottman, 1996; Cassidy & Shaver, 1999 . . .

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