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Anxiety about relationships may lower immunity, increase vulnerability to illness
Date:2/11/2013

white, and their average age was 39 years.

The participants completed a questionnaire called The Experiences in Close Relationships scale. They also reported general anxiety symptoms and their sleep quality. Researchers collected saliva samples over three days and blood samples over two days.

Participants with higher attachment anxiety produced, on average, 11 percent more cortisol than did those with lower attachment anxiety. The more anxiously attached participants also had between 11 percent and 22 percent fewer T cells than did less anxiously attached partners. Four T-cell markers were analyzed in the study.

The combined findings make sense and are likely related, Jaremka said, because cortisol can have immunosuppressive effects meaning it can inhibit production of these very same T cells. Previous research has suggested that reduced T-cell levels can impair the immune response to vaccines and that low levels of the cells are a hallmark of an aging immune system.

Attachment anxiety is considered a phenomenon related to childhood development, Jaremka explained. At a very young age, children learn whether or not their primary caregivers will respond when the children are in distress. If caregivers are responsive, children learn they can rely on other people. If care is inconsistent or neglectful, children can develop feelings of insecurity that might manifest as attachment anxiety later in life.

Though she knows of no research-based advice about how to shed these feelings of insecurity, Jaremka said it is clear that people can change.

"Most research that does exist in this area supports the idea that being in very caring, loving, close relationships might be a catalyst to change from being very anxious to not," she said.

Jaremka's research focuses on the physiological effects of dissatisfaction in relationships, or the feeling of being disconnected from other people. She also recently published a pap
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Contact: Lisa Jaremka
Ljaremka@gmail.com
614-293-5439
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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