Is Hostility Bad for Your Health?

Can a hostile relationship be toxic?

An Ohio State University study of couples gives a fascinating look at the tangible health costs of negative interactions. 42 couples allowed scientists to place blisters on their arms and then monitor their healing rates in the eight days following either high or low stress conversations. The blisters showed a significant difference in healing rates following the hostile conversations versus the supportive or neutral ones. Additionally, individuals who showed a higher general negative attitude towards their partner had overall slower healing rates.

The implications for this study are potentially wide-reaching – as the scientists point out in their summary. Couples were arguing within the confines of a laboratory setting with the full knowledge that their interactions were being analyzed. Imagine how they would fight were they at home with nobody watching! If blisters healed 60% more slowly on couples who had hostile conversations and/or hostility based relationship, imagine what else was being affected.

You can read the entire article, which includes methods, coding and outcome measures, in the Archives of General Psychiatry here  as well as the topic of how relationships affect health in Tara Parker-Pope’s article here.

Now, go give somebody a hug!