A Moment of Science

Married Wounds

According to the study, the stress that a married couple experiences during a typical argument can slow the body's power to heal wounds by up to two days.

marital_stress

Photo: Ed Yourdon

However, as any marriage counselor will tell you, at least some fighting is a healthy part of a relationship.

Anyone who’s been married knows that arguing with your spouse comes with the territory. Those heady, romantic days of courtship have given way to arguing about doing the dishes and taking out the garbage. However, as any marriage counselor will tell you, at least some fighting is a healthy part of a relationship.

According to a study done by researchers at Ohio State University, though, marital stress has its downside as well. According to the study, the stress that a married couple experiences during a typical argument can slow the body’s power to heal wounds by up to two days.

The study involved 42 married couples who’d been together for an average of 12 years. First, each spouse was given small wounds on their arms and took tests to determine their stress levels. Then they were videotaped while having a supportive discussion about their relationship.

Two months later the couples were again given small wounds and this time videotaped while discussing something more emotionally volatile. The researchers found that the wounds took one day longer to heal after the stressful discussion than they did after the supportive discussion. Couples that had really hostile arguments took as long as two extra days to heal their wounds.

The researchers are still trying to determine why higher levels of stress slow the wound healing process. The findings could be important in many ways. Hospitals, for example, might take more care to make hospital stays less stressful so patients will heal faster. Thus, if you’re about to go under the knife, it may be a good idea to save the argument about leaving the toilet seat up until after your body has fully healed.

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