Science of Love: Relationships Tied to Health Issues

Wednesday, 13 Feb 2013 12:37 PM

By Nick Tate

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The mental-health journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin has produced a Valentine’s Day special edition, of sorts, featuring several new studies on the links between relationships and health.

And some of the findings aren’t so sweet.

For instance: Men whose wives earn more income are more likely to use erectile dysfunction medication than those who out-earn their wives. The study — led by Lamar Pierce, a professor of strategy at Washington University's Olin Business School who collaborated with Danish scientists —  tracked more than 200,000 married couples in Denmark from 1997 to 2006.

Editor's Note: Knowing these 5 cancer-causing signs is crucial to remaining cancer-free for life

The results also showed wives who have higher incomes than their husbands are more likely to suffer from insomnia and to use anti-anxiety medication. Curiously, the results indicated financial matters did not have the same health impacts in unmarried couples or for men earning less than their wives prior to marriage.

Among the findings of other studies published online in the journal:

Humor is a double-edged sword. While humor can ease conflicts in relationships, some types of joking can actually be detrimental and raise tensions and anxiety in some partners. In a study of 93 unmarried couples, who were videotaped while trying to resolve a conflict, researchers found highly anxious individuals tended to use more negative “self-defeating” humor that prompted adverse responses from their partners. But, on the other hand, positive "affiliative" humor — jokes not made at any one's expense — tended to be very well received, even by distressed partners.

Jealousy reduces the desire for children. Three new studies found that chronically jealous men and women report less interest in having babies, and feel less happy about the prospect of receiving news about being pregnant. They also found that chronically jealous men — but not women — primed to think about jealousy show less interest in investing in their children.

Singles feel singled out. Two studies suggested single people feel lower levels of self-esteem when they read or write about how single people differ from individuals in relationships. Certain questions — such as "How come a wonderful person like you is still single?" — also tended to make some individuals feel badly about themselves and the lack of a life partner.

Belief in change reduces domestic violence. Four studies, involving more than 2,500 people, found that when individuals believe that their relationship can change and grow over time, they are less like likely to engage in violent behavior toward one another. Researchers found that such so-called "growth beliefs" reduce violence in relationships by increasing the satisfaction that partners have with sacrificing their interests for their partners'.

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