Magazine article Science News

Marital Tiffs Spark Immune Swoon ... but Hypnosis Offers Immune Aid

Magazine article Science News

Marital Tiffs Spark Immune Swoon ... but Hypnosis Offers Immune Aid

Article excerpt

Husbands and wives can really get under each other's skins. In fact, new evidence suggests that nasty marital spats temporarily weaken the immune systems of both spouses, potentially boosting their susceptibility to physical illness.

Newlyweds who employ hostile tactics while discussing problems in their relationship show far greater drops in several immune measures over the next 24 hours than recently married couples who take a more conciliatory approach to problems, assert Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser of Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus and her colleagues.

Wives experience larger immune drops than their husbands after an unkind exchange, the researchers note. Women may prove superior to men in detecting a spouse's hostile emotional messages, Kiecolt-Glaser suggests. Her team plans to see whether the immune decline in men reaches or surpasses that of their wives at later points in their marriages.

The Ohio State team studied 90 couples married for an average of 10 months. Participants ranged in age from 20 to 37. They described their marriages as happy. No one smoked cigarettes, drank alcohol excessively, suffered from serious physical illnesses, or exhibited signs of mental disorders.

Each couple stayed at a university research center for 24 hours. After identifying two or three topics that caused problems in their relationship, such as how to handle money and deal with in-laws, a couple spent 30 minutes trying to resolve these issues. The researchers videotaped these sessions and identified each spouse's positive and negative behaviors.

Participants gave blood samples for immunological analysis before the discussion and at the end of their stay.

Couples who held the most negative discussions--marked by sarcasm, interruptions, and criticism--displayed the steepest drops in two types of white blood cells. …

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