When we row with our partner, we lower our immune system’s ability to heal wounds.
Wounds take an extra day to heal after we’ve argued with someone close to us, a new study has discovered. A heated argument also increases levels of inflammation in our body, say researchers at Ohio State University.
The stress from even a brief argument interferes with the body’s wound-healing abilities and adds a day to the process.
The health implications for people in relationships where arguments are common could be more severe as inflammation is a precursor of diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and some cancers.
In the study, 42 married partners, who had been together for around 12 years, were monitored before and after having a heated argument, and their immune system was measured as it healed a small blister the researchers created on each partner’s forearm.
They were recorded having two discussions: the first was about social support and the second was a source of tension, such as finances or in-laws. In follow ups, the couples were asked how satisfied they were by the outcomes and whether they felt supported or understood.
Those who tried to avoid any conflict, or withdrew from it, had higher inflammatory markers and lowered immune system responses. Their wounds also took a further day to heal.
“Marriage is associated with better health, but chronically distressed marriages can worsen health,” said Rosie Shrout, one of the researchers.
Psychoneuroendocrinology, 2023; 149: 105989; doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2022.105989