Have you ever yelled, “You make me sick!” in the middle of a nasty fight with a loved one? Well, you might have been yelling the truth, if not very nicely. New research shows that anxiety in close relationships can affect your health and damage your immune system.
Researchers at Ohio State University studied 85 couples who had been married for an average of 12 years. They gathered data on the level of anxiety the partners had about their close relationships, and then took samples of their blood and saliva. They found that those with high levels of “attachment anxiety” had significantly higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that’s connected to stress. They also had up to 20% fewer T-cells, which help the body combat illness. Specifically, “attachment anxiety” refers to the fear that the person you love will leave you, of which women in the study suffered higher levels.
It’s not news that stress affect health, of course. The news here is that anxiety over relationships can effectively become a chronic stressor. “The thing that was surprising was the magnitude of the difference, especially in the immune cells that we saw,” one of the researchers told the Huffington Post. “Some of the differences in the immune cell numbers, between the higher and the less high anxious attached people, were on the magnitude of what you’d see between obese and non-obese people.”
So, no, I wouldn’t advise telling your boss that you’re going to have take a pass on coming in to work because you’re anxious you’re boyfriend will leave you. But you can think it to yourself — and then break up with him (or get some therapy already).