Dyadic Coping and Salivary Interleukin-6 Responses to Interpersonal Stress

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Dysregulated immune responses to stress are a potential pathway linking close relationship processes to health, and couples’ abilities to cope with stress together (dyadic coping) likely impact such immune responses. Most stress research has focused on immune reactivity, whereas knowledge of immune recovery remains limited. The present study examined how acute interpersonal stress affects immune reactivity and recovery, as well as whether dyadic coping moderates these effects. Healthy couples (N = 24) completed the Dyadic Coping Inventory and provided saliva samples 4 times each day for 5 days, including 2 days before a laboratory dyadic stressor (discussing an area of disagreement), the day of, and 2 days after. Four additional saliva samples were taken throughout the laboratory stressor. Saliva samples were assayed for interleukin (IL)-6. Multilevel models that adjusted for demographic and health variables indicated that partners low in dyadic coping showed immune reactivity to the stressor whereas partners high in dyadic coping did not. Dyadic coping did not moderate immune recovery, which had occurred by 5 hr poststressor across all participants. Results suggest that partners low in dyadic coping show increased reactivity of immune responses to interpersonal stress. Enhancing dyadic coping in couples may impact not only their mental health and relationship quality, but also their risk of stress-related immune disorders.

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