Women's health * Men's health * Mental wellbeing

Long term romance reduces stress

Long term romance reduces stress It works for both married and unmarried couples, research finds

Tell it to the bickering couples out there: having a long term romance alters hormones in a way that reduces stress.

This effect works on both married and unmarried couples, according to research carried out at the University of Chicago.

"These results suggest that single and unpaired individuals are more responsive to psychological stress than married individuals, a finding consistent with a growing body of evidence showing that marriage and social support can buffer against stress," writes lead author Dario Maestripieri.

Researchers looked at 500 graduate students, where 40 per cent of men and 53 per cent of women were married or in relationships.

The students were made to play a series of stressful computer games, the outcome of which, students were told, would impact their future career. Saliva samples were taken before and after to measure changes in hormone levels.

The concentration of cortisol, a stress hormone, was found that have increased in all participants, with women experiencing a higher average increase. Testosterone decreased in males, but not females - a stress effect previously observed in both humans and animals.

However, the key finding was that unpaired individuals of both sexes had higher cortisol levels than married individuals.

"Although marriage can be pretty stressful, it should make it easier for people to handle other stressors in their lives," Dr Maestripieri said.

"What we found is that marriage has a dampening effect on cortisol responses to psychological stress, and that is very new," he added.

This article was published on Thu 19 August 2010

Image © Melany Dieterle - Fotolia.com

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