Public Release:  Partner relationship as a buffer against stress

University of Gothenburg

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IMAGE: This Ann-Christine Andersson Arntén, Ph.D., from the University of Gothenburg. view more

Credit: University of Gothenburg

A good partner relationship can act as a buffer for those exposed to work-related stress.

- The relationship reduces the negative effects of this kind of stress on our health. But poor relationships will amplify the negative effects", say Ann-Christine Andersson Arntén in a new doctoral dissertation from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

- A positive approach and successful stress-management techniques also help to reduce the negative effects of work-related stress", explains Ann-Christine Andersson Arntén, who will be presenting her dissertation in psychology.

- But when there are stressful experiences both at work and in the relationship, the risk of burn-out and poor health increases dramatically.

About 900 persons took part in her survey. Those who felt they had a good relationship experienced that they enjoyed better health than those who had a more problematic relationship. Women with a poorly-functioning relationship experienced more anxiety, mental stress reactions and sleeping difficulties than women who had a good relationship. Men who had a mediocre relationship had a higher incidence of depression, anxiety, psychological and somatic stress reactions than men with worse or better relationships.

- One explanation can be that people living with a mediocre relationship take more responsibility to improve the relationship, while those with poor relationships just admit it, and don't feel they can do anything about it.

The body needs to recover

Although the study shows some gender differences, differences amongst individuals belonging to a gender were much greater than the difference between the genders.

After having been exposed to stress, the body must recover and recharge itself. If there is no opportunity to recover because the work doesn't allow for breaks and lunches, the body's reserves are emptied, and poor health ensues. The same principle applies when a person takes work home, frequently works overtime or has recurring quarrels and problems in his or her relationship.

The effects of the sometimes small but recurring stress situations of everyday life sneak up on a person, who at first does not even notice them. The person under stress adapts and tries to accommodate the demands and changes he or she face, until one day, there is such a great imbalance, that massive efforts are needed just to manage everyday life.

- The risk is that we don't realize things are not right until we get to that point. Our work and required social interactions demand much too much of us. Our relationship is strained to the breaking point, and we've used the last drop of the energy reserves we once had. According to Ann-Christine Andersson Arntén, not taking time to recover can lead to impaired physical and mental health and cognitive and concentration problems, which reduce performance and problem-solving ability. - And this leads to consequences both at home and at work, says Ann-Christine Andersson Arntén.

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Title of dissertation: Partnership Relation Quality Modulates the Effects of Work-Stress on Health.
Author of the dissertation: Ann-Christine Andersson Arntén, telephone
+46 (0) 707445042 (home), +46 (0)707445042 (work)
E-link: http://hdl.handle.net/2077/20199
e-mail: ann-christine.andersson.arnten@psy.gu
Faculty examiner: Professor Milton Diamond, John A. Burns School of Medicine, Anatomy, Biochemistry & Physiology, University of Hawaii , Hawaii , United States.

The thesis has been successfully defended.

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