Long Term Relationships Lowers Stress Hormones

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University of Chicago professor and lead author Dario Maestripieri found that unmarried people in a committed, romantic relationship show the same reduced responses to stress as do married people.

Single people more responsive to stress

“These results suggest that single and unpaired individuals are more responsive to psychological stress than married individuals, a finding consistent with a growing body of evidence showing that marriage and social support can buffer against stress.”

Maestripieri and his team of researchers looked at 500 masters degree students. Of those students, 40 percent of men and 53 percent of women were married or in relationships. The researchers had students play a series of computer games that tested economic behaviors. Saliva samples were taken before and after to measure hormone levels and changes.

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Students where then told was told that the test was a course requirement, and it would impact their future career placement. Researchers did this in hopes to make the test a potentially stressful experience that could affect levels of cortisol which is also called the stress hormone.

The researchers found cortisol concentrations increased in all participants, but that females experienced a higher average increase than males. The exercise also decreased testosterone in male subjects, but not in females, a stress effect previously observed in humans and animals.

“We found that unpaired individuals of both sexes had higher cortisol levels than married individuals,” Maestripieri said. “Although marriage can be pretty stressful, it should make it easier for people to handle other stressors in their lives,” he said.

“What we found is that marriage has a dampening effect on cortisol responses to psychological stress, and that is very new.”

Maestripieri findings are published in the current issue of the Journal Stress.

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