On the importance of relationship quality: The impact of ambivalence in friendships on cardiovascular functioning

Abstract

Background: Social relationships are reliably related to rates of morbidity and mortality. One pathway by which social relationships may influence health is via the impact of relationship quality on cardiovascular reactivity during social interactions.Purpose and Method: This study examined the effects of the quality of a friendship on cardiovascular reactivity when speaking about positive or negative life events with an ambivalent or supportive friend. To examine this, 107 healthy male and female adults (and their same-sex friend) were recruited.Results: Results revealed that participants exhibited the greatest levels of systolic blood pressure reactivity when discussing a negative event with an ambivalent friend compared to a supportive friend. We also found higher resting levels of heart rate and lower respiratory sinus arrhythmia among those who brought in ambivalent friends than those who brought in supportive friends.Conclusion: Individuals may not be able to fully relax in the presence of ambivalent friends and may not benefit from support during stress. This research may help clarify the health-related consequences of differing types of social relationships.

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Correspondence to Julianne Holt-Lunstad Ph.D..

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Holt-Lunstad, J., Uchino, B.N., Smith, T.W. et al. On the importance of relationship quality: The impact of ambivalence in friendships on cardiovascular functioning. ann. behav. med. 33, 278–290 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02879910

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Keywords

  • Relationship Quality
  • Behavioral Medicine
  • Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia
  • Total Peripheral Resistance
  • Cardiovascular Reactivity