The findings were published in the journal Health Psychology.
The study authors noted that their research had limitations. It only looked at senior citizens and relied on their own estimates of their health status instead of physical examinations, for one, and only examined changes over two years.
Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, director of the Ohio State University College of Medicine's Division of Health Psychology, said the new study came from "a group of excellent investigators." But, she added, she would like to have seen more analysis of whether the study participants were depressed.
"When people are blue, they tend to be overly sensitive to negative interactions, to feel that others are often unsympathetic -- and then they behave in ways that tend to elicit even more negative behaviors from others," Kiecolt-Glaser said. "They're cranky and critical and cantankerous. If you're seeing the world through dark-colored glasses, you're more likely to focus on how unsympathetic or insensitive other people act toward you, and there's a big element of self-fulfilling prophecy."
Newsom acknowledged that it's no easy task to make people get along better. But, he said, studies have shown that one approach -- conflict-resolution training -- actually works.
To learn more about conflict-resolution training, visit the University of Wisconsin.
SOURCES: Jason Newsom, Ph.D., associate professor, Portland State University School of Community Health, Oregon; Janice Kiecolt-Glaser
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