COLUMBUS, Ohio Concerns and anxieties about one's close relationships appear to function as a chronic stressor that can compromise immunity, according to new research.
In the study, researchers asked married couples to complete questionnaires about their relationships and collected saliva and blood samples to test participants' levels of a key stress-related hormone and numbers of certain immune cells.
The research focused on attachment anxiety. Those who are on the high end of the attachment anxiety spectrum are excessively concerned about being rejected, have a tendency to constantly seek reassurance that they are loved, and are more likely to interpret ambiguous events in a relationship as negative.
Married partners who were more anxiously attached produced higher levels of cortisol, a steroid hormone that is released in response to stress, and had fewer T cells important components of the immune system's defense against infection than did participants who were less anxiously attached.
"Everyone has these types of concerns now and again in their relationships, but a high level of attachment anxiety refers to people who have these worries fairly constantly in most of their relationships," Lisa Jaremka, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow in Ohio State University's Institute of Behavioral Medicine Research (IBMR).
Though some scientists theorize that attachment anxiety can be traced to inconsistent care during one's infancy, Jaremka noted that there is also research-based evidence that people with attachment anxiety can change.
"It's not necessarily a permanent state of existence," she said.
The study appears online and is scheduled for future print publication in the journal Psychological Science.
Jaremka and colleagues tested the health effects of attachment anxiety on 85 couples who had been married for an average of more than 12 years. Most participants were
|Contact: Lisa Jaremka|
Ohio State University