Psychosocial Predictors of Natural Killer Cell Mobilization During Marital Conflict

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Abstract

This study examined how specific emotions relate to autonomic nervous and immune system parameters and whether cynical hostility moderates this relationship. Forty-one married couples participated in a 15-min discussion about a marital problem. Observers recorded spouses' emotional expressions during the discussion, and cardiovascular, neuroendocrine, and immunologic parameters were assessed throughout the laboratory session. Among men high in cynical hostility, anger displayed during the conflict was associated with greater elevations in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, cortisol, and increases in natural killer cell numbers and cytotoxicity. Among men low in cynical hostility, anger was associated with smaller increases in heart rate and natural killer cell cytotoxicity. These findings suggest that models describing the impact of stress on physiology should be refined to reflect the joint contribution of situational and dispositional variables.

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