Marital Stress Linked with Slower Wound Healing

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Marital Stress

Married couples who had higher levels of hostile behaviors had slower healing times of blister wounds, possibly because of the corresponding change in the level of proinflammatory proteins in the blood, according to a study in the December issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

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Marital discord has been associated as a risk factor for several illnesses, according to background information in the article. Possible mechanisms have included changes in blood pressure and endocrine levels. Stress has been linked with a change in the production of proinflammatory cytokines, proteins in cells that play a key role in wound healing.

Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser, Ph.D., of Ohio State University, Columbus, and colleagues conducted a study to assess how hostile marital behavior affected a health outcome, wound healing, as well as the production of proinflammatory cytokine. The study included 42 healthy married couples, aged 22 to 77 years (average, 37 years old), married an average of 12.6 years. Couples were admitted twice to a hospital research unit for 24 hours. During the first admission, couples had a structured social support interaction, and during the second admission, they discussed a marital disagreement. Couples rated their behavior and responses. A vacuum pump was used to produce blisters on the arm. The blister wound was examined several times over a 12 day period to determine the degree of healing and blood was drawn to measure cytokine levels.

The researchers found that couples

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