MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Robert W. Levenson, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Psychology
Director, Institute of Personality
and Social Research (IPSR)
University of California
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Dr. Levenson: This study comes from a 20-year longitudinal study of Bay Area married couples that we began in the late 1980s. The main purpose of the study was to understand the emotional qualities of successful marriages. Couples came to our laboratory every five years so that we could get a snapshot of the way they interacted with each. We also measured their psychological and physical health. This new paper connects the emotional behaviors we observed when couples discussed a problem in their marriage at the start of the study with the kinds of illnesses they developed over the ensuing decades.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Dr. Levenson: Most research of the relationship between life’s stresses and disease doesn’t examine specific emotions and doesn’t make connections to specific health problems. Also most prior work is based on questionnaire data, not direct observation of the emotional behaviors that couples actually express. In addition, it takes many years for these kinds of emotion-disease relationships to emerge. Thus, it requires this kind of long-term longitudinal research. Finally, this work focuses on people who were already in middle age or early late life at the start of the study; thus, they are much more vulnerable to disease than more typical studies of undergraduates or young people.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Dr. Levenson: Emotions have a powerful effect on our psychological and physical health. Expressed in moderation, all emotions are quite useful. But, research like ours suggests that certain emotional behaviors like anger and stonewalling can be harmful if they are over-expressed over long periods of time. It should serve as an alarm to consider doing something to deal with relationship problems and create a better emotional balance.
MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.
Haase, Claudia M.; Holley, Sarah; Bloch, Lian; Verstaen, Alice; Levenson, Robert W. Interpersonal Emotional Behaviors and Physical Health: A 20-Year Longitudinal Study of Long-Term Married Couples.Emotion, 2016 DOI: 10.1037/a0040239
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