Health and Marriage: The Cortisol Connection

Bad marriages can be sickening. Most people don’t have to be convinced of this, but for those who do, several decades of studies offer plenty of proof. Even so, very little is known about exactly how marriage quality affects health. Do strife and rudeness and neglect–and all the other signs of marital unhappiness–somehow get under the skin and trigger physical ailments? Or do warmth and trust and understanding and appreciation follow some biological pathway to wellness? Or both?

Relationship experts have been focusing recently on marital partners’ beliefs about their marriage–specifically a partner’s belief that the other partner understands and cares for him or her. Whether true or not, this belief–this perception that a partner is responsive, and reciprocates one’s love and appreciation–is associated with satisfaction and intimacy in marriages. Could it also be related to physical health?

That’s the question that Wayne State University psychological scientist Richard Slatcher has been exploring in his work. Since perceived responsiveness is so important to marital satisfaction, Slatcher and his colleagues wondered if such beliefs might also have a positive impact on health and longevity through some biological pathway. The biological pathway they targeted for study is the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal, or HPA, axis, and the —> Read More Here


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