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Wounds Heal More Slowly in the Unhappily Married

Researchers also associate hostile marriage with higher blood levels of proinflammatory cytokines

TUESDAY, Dec. 6 (HealthDay News) -- A hostile marriage can slow wound healing and increase blood levels of proinflammatory cytokines, according to a study published in the December issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser, Ph.D., of Ohio State University in Columbus, and colleagues studied 42 healthy married couples, aged 22 to 77, who were admitted twice to a hospital research unit for 24 hours in a crossover trial. The researchers assessed wound healing daily following research unit discharge.

The investigators found that blister wounds in couples who were consistently hostile healed at 60% of the rate of low-hostile couples. IL-6 and TNF-alpha were higher in high-hostility couples than low-hostility couples. Low-hostile couples had roughly the same rise in IL-6 in the 24 hours after a social support discussion or a conflict interaction (65% versus 70%), while high-hostile individuals had an increase from 45% to 113% after a conflict interaction.

"These data provide further mechanistic evidence of the sensitivity of wound healing to everyday stressors," the authors conclude. "Moreover, more frequent and amplified increases in proinflammatory cytokine levels could accelerate a range of age-related diseases. Thus, these data also provide a window on the pathways through which hostile or abrasive relationships affect physiological functioning and health."

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