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… avoid sharp knives

December 22, 2007

One of the newer science blogs, Neuroanthropology has an interesting post which shows the sort of imagination you need to be a researcher in this field. The salient quote, highly appropriate for the holiday season is:

A half-hour argument with your lover can also slow your body’s ability to heal by at least a day. In couples who regularly argue, that healing time is doubled again

How do they know this, well read on ….

Researchers at Ohio State University discovered this by testing married couples with a suction device that created tiny blisters on their arm. When couples were then asked to talk about an area of disagreement that provoked strong emotions, the wounds took around 40 per cent longer to heal. This response, say researchers, was caused by a surge in cytokines — immune-molecules that trigger inflammation. Chronic high levels of these are linked to arthritis, diabetes, heart-disease and cancer.

Now read this carefully, it’s not the argument, but talking about the argument that produces the response. All that touchy-feely stuff in marriage and relationship counseling is making things worse not better! Have the argument, get it out of system and move on. I realise the more astute may make a link to my post of yesterday, but that is argument as sport or recreation, I get the impression the researchers are dealing with the darker side of debate.

For the avoidance of doubt (some people can be so serious) I am being ironic here. In contrast, a serious lesson I draw from research (and read the post for some fascinating stuff on laughter) is that the interconnectivity of individuals in a social setting is more important for health than the selfish pursuit of self-interest. Its a pity we have built an economic system on the assumption that selfishness is the best operating principle for society, otherwise known as market forces. Given the cost of health provision, maybe a little bit more on learning to live with, and interact with diversity, might be worth an investment?

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