Arguing with your partner may worsen symptoms of chronic pain | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Image: Ditty_about_summer/
Image: Ditty_about_summer/

Fighting with your partner could have bigger implications than just affecting your emotional health according to a new study, which has found that daily tension in a relationship could also affect the physical health of those with chronic conditions.

Carried out by researchers at Pennsylvania State University, the study set out to see if those with chronic illness would experience more severe symptoms on the days when there was more marital tension.

The researchers looked at two groups of participants for the study, one group of 145 patients with osteoarthritis in the knee and their spouses, and one group of 129 patients with type 2 diabetes and their spouses.

All participants were asked to keep daily diaries for around a three-week period recording their mood, how severe their symptoms were, and whether their daily interactions with their spouse were positive or negative.

The results showed that all participants reported being in a worse mood on the days when they experienced more tension than usual with their spouse, which appeared to also lead to experiencing greater pain or severity of symptoms.

For participants with arthritis, the researchers also found that the severity of the patient’s pain also had a negative effect on mood and tensions with their partner the following day.

“It was exciting that we were able to see this association in two different data sets, two groups of people with two different diseases,” commented co-author Lynn Martire. “The findings gave us insight into how marriage might affect health, which is important for people dealing with chronic conditions like arthritis or diabetes.”

“Other studies have looked at the quality of someone’s marriage right now. But we wanted to drill down and examine how positive or negative interactions with your spouse affect your health from day to day. This almost starts to suggest a cycle where your marital interactions are more tense, you feel like your symptoms are more severe, and the next day you have more marital tension again,” Martire said. “We didn’t find this effect in the participants with diabetes, which may just be due to differences in the two diseases.”

Martire added that learning more what causes a worsening of symptoms in those with chronic disease is important, as people with osteoarthritis in their knees who experience greater pain become disabled quicker, and people with diabetes that isn’t controlled have a greater risk for developing complications.

The results can be found published in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine. JB


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