freelance journalist, print journalist, online journalist, copywriter, content editor, freelance editor, health and lifestyle, blogger Fighting couples may feel more pain | Christine Morgan - Journalist
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If holding hands with someone who loves you can ease pain, could arguing with your partner make pain worse?

It very well might do just that, say researchers from the Penn State Center for Healthy Aging. Published in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine, the researchers’ study found older people living with chronic conditions such as arthritis and diabetes suffered more severe symptoms when there was tension in their relationship. Given that there’s plenty of evidence to suggest good relationships are linked with better health, surely the opposite could also be true?

Two groups of volunteers – one with arthritis and the other with type 2 diabetes – kept daily diaries about their mood, how severe their symptoms were and whether their relationship with their partner was positive or negative. Within both groups volunteers said they were in a worse mood on days when they argued with their partners. No surprise there. But they said they were in more pain or were having more severe symptoms on those days too.

In a classic catch 22, the volunteers with arthritis also said whenever they were in a lot of pain it caused tension with their partners because having to deal with the pain had put them in a bad mood. So more pain, more tension, then more tension, more pain.

“This almost starts to suggest a cycle where your marital interactions are more tense, you feel like your symptoms are more severe, and the next day you have more marital tension again,” says Lynn Martire, a professor of human development and family studies at the Penn State Center for Healthy Aging.

So what can we learn from this? The professor has a suggestion: if you improve the overall quality of people’s relationships, it may have an impact on their health.


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