April 22, 2019
Writer: Jaime Strobel

Recent studies from Brigham Young University show that relationships and stress are correlated.

Dr. Wendy Birmingham professor of psychology at Brigham Young University, and doctoral student Tyler Graff are behind the research and talked to BYU-Idaho Radio.

Birmingham explained that relationships impact our psychological and physiological health. She is particularly interested in family relationships.

“Our marital relationship which generally we consider the most important relationship in our life can affect disease processes and how happy we are in life and things like depression or satisfaction with life,” Birmingham said.

Graff, lead author of the study said stress responses are influenced by relationships. In the study, they wanted to see if having your spouse with you reduced stress.

About 40 couples within the community participated in various stress tasks. On occasion they were asked to attend the research sessions with their spouses, and other times they were asked to attend individually. When their spouse was present, participants were advised to hold their spouses’ hand while performing the stress tasks. During these tasks, blood pressure and pupil dilation were measured.

The experiment extrapolated two main results. Tonic pupil size and phasic pupil response.

“Their pupils were dilating less if they had their spouse with them holding their hand, versus coming and experimenting the stressful task on their own,” Graff said.

Relationships not only reduced stress, Birmingham said, but they are good for your health.

“You generally have better immune response when you have a more supportive network,” Birmingham said. “We are less likely to succumb to specific cardiovascular diseases.”

In a recent article published about their study, Birmingham said there is a connection between their study and the BYU mission statement, which says “all relationships within the BYU community should reflect a devout love of God and a loving, genuine concern for the welfare of our neighbor.”

Birmingham said an important aspect of this life is learning to become more Christ like. We learn how to help reduce stress in others’ lives by loving them.

“Who better in this world for us to help and be kind and be supportive to, and help them through the journey in this life, then the people who are most important to us,” Birmingham said.