HEALTH

Marriage could help you beat stress

Marriage could help you beat stress

Married people have lower levels of stress hormone, reveals a new study

While past research has suggested a strong connection between an individual's marital status and stress levels, no study so far had been able to provide a biological evidence to support the argument.

A new study by Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania, has found that married people are healthier and have lower levels of stress hormone, cortisol, compared to their single peers.

A steroid hormone, cortisol influences, regulates or modulates many of the changes that occur in the body in response to stress. Besides, it plays a crucial role in maintaining blood sugar levels, immune responses and reducing inflammation in the body.

The study, published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, focused on how psychological stress endured by unmarried versus married individuals could differentially impact physiological systems related to health. Researchers found that unmarried people face more psychological stress than married people. Also, prolonged stress is associated with increased levels of cortisol in the body.

"It’s is exciting to discover a physiological pathway that may explain how relationships influence health and disease," said lead author Brian Chin a PhD student in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences' Department of Psychology, in a related report published on the university's website.

Over a three-day period, researchers studied saliva samples collected from 572 healthy men and women, aged 21-55. Multiple samples were taken during each 24-hour period and tested for cortisol.

The results showed that the married participants had lower cortisol levels than the never married or previously married people across the three-day period.

The study also included a comparison of each person's daily cortisol rhythm. Typically, cortisol levels peak when a person wakes up and decline during the day. Those married showed steeper slopes than the unmarried, with output differences being the greatest during the afternoon. Faster decline in cortisol levels has been associated with better health.

"These data provide important insight into the way in which our intimate social relationships can get under the skin to influence our health," said laboratory director and co-author Sheldon Cohen, the Robert E. Doherty University Professor of Psychology, in a related report published on the university's website.

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