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Stress substantially slows human body's ability to heal

The stress a typical married couple feels during an ordinary half-hour argument is enough to slow their bodies' ability to heal from wounds by at least one day, a new study has shown.

Moreover, if the couple's relationship is routinely hostile toward each other, the delay in that healing process can be even doubled. The results of this study have major financial implications for medical centers and health care insurers.

The new study, reported in the current issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, is the latest discovery in a three-decade-long series of experiments underway at the Ohio State University 's Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research. The work is aimed at identifying and then explaining the ways psychological stress can affect human immunity.

Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, a professor of psychiatry and psychology, and partner Ronald Glaser, a professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics, both at Ohio State, say the findings provide important recommendations for patients facing surgery.

"This shows specifically why it is so important that people be psychologically prepared for their surgeries," Kiecolt-Glaser explained.

Colleague Glaser added, "We have enough data now from all of our past studies to basically suggest that hospitals need to modify existing practices in ways that will reduce stress prior to surgery." Both researchers said such stress reduction could lead to shorter hospital stays -- with corresponding lower medical bills -- and a reduced risk of infections among patients.

The researchers focused on a group of 42 married couples who had been together an average of at least 12 years. Each couple was admitted into the university's General Clinical Research Center for two, 24-hour-long visits. The visits were separated by a two-month interval.

During each visit, both the husband and wife were fitted with a small suction device which created eight tiny uniform blisters
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Source:Ohio State University


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