Marriage & health

by Christina on April 16, 2010

It may seem intuitive that people in a loving and supportive marriage will be physically healthier… but check out this article on some of the research behind it!

A happy marriage can strengthen the immune system, while an unhappy marriage can weaken it. In one experiment, researchers gave couples blisters on their arm and measured the length of time for the blisters to heal (a marker of immune function). For couples that argued, these blisters took a full day longer to heal when compared with couples that did not fight. And in couples that fought with hostility, the blisters took a full two days longer to heal!

In another experiment, researchers found significant changes in the brain from simple loving acts like handholding or backrubs. The article explains that these are ways of “outsourcing” negative emotions and stress… meaning that the brain gets less wear and tear over time.

When a husband held his wife’s hand, it “reduced the neural activity in areas of the woman’s brain associated with stress.” When the wife held her husband’s hand during electric shocks, it created “a calming of the brain regions associated with pain similar to the effect brought about by use of a pain-relieving drug.”

This makes me wonder – what is the more general effect of human touch? For example, what do the physical adjustments in our Mysore yoga practice do to our brains? For me, this simple touch can act like a pain-relieving drug (painful postures become easier, my respiratory rate slows).

I’m also wondering what marriage does to telomere length. My hypothesis: a happy marriage means longer telomeres.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Chris April 16, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Re your recent blog post on happy marriages, my telomeres must be longer than an elephant's trunk!

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