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Marital Stress: Immunologic, Neuroendocrine, and Autonomic Correlatesa

Authors

  • JANICE K. KIECOLT-GLASER,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychiatry, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210 USA
    2. Department of Psychology, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210 USA
    3. Also affiliated with the Comprehensive Cancer Center.
    4. Also affiliated with the Ohio State Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research.
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  • RONALD GLASER,

    1. Department of Psychiatry, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210 USA
    2. Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210 USA
    3. Department of Medicine, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210 USA
    4. Also affiliated with the Comprehensive Cancer Center.
    5. Also affiliated with the Ohio State Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research.
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  • JOHN T. CACIOPPO,

    1. Department of Psychology, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210 USA
    2. Also affiliated with the Ohio State Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research.
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  • WILLIAM B. MALARKEY

    1. Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210 USA
    2. Department of Medicine, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210 USA
    3. Also affiliated with the Comprehensive Cancer Center.
    4. Also affiliated with the Ohio State Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research.
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  • a

    Work reported in this paper was supported in part by NIMH Grant MH44660, NIH General Clinical Research Center Grant MO1-RR-0034, and by Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center Core Grant CA16058.

Address correspondence to Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser, Department of Psychiatry, Ohio State University College of Medicine, 1670 Upham Drive, Columbus, OH 43210. e-mail: jkiecolt@magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu

Abstract

Abstract: Ninety newlywed couples (mean age = 25), selected on the basis of extremely stringent mental and physical health criteria, were admitted to a hospital research unit for 24 hours to provide a detailed assessment of conflict-resolution behaviors and changes in autonomic, endocrine, and immune function. Among these newlyweds, negative or hostile behaviors during marital conflict (coded from videotaped interactions) were associated with increased levels of epinephrine, norepinephrine, growth hormone, and ACTH as well as greater immunological change over the subsequent 24 hours. Wives demonstrated greater and more persistent physiological changes related to marital conflict than husbands. To assess the generalizability of these physiological changes, a similar laboratory paradigm was used with 31 older couples (mean age = 67) who had been married an average of 42 years. Consistent with the data from newlyweds, both endocrinological and immunological data showed significant relationships to negative behavior during marital conflict in these older couples. These findings suggest that abrasive marital interactions have important endocrinological and immunological correlates.

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