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Negative social interactions could give you high blood pressure says new study

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Negative social interactions increase hypertension risk in older adults, says new research. Women more affected by negative social interactions than men. Keeping your friends close and your enemies closer may not be the best advice if you are 50 or older. Women care more about and pay more attention to the quality of their relationships. You also may wish to check out the website for the Laboratory for the study of Stress, Immunity, and Disease.

New research from Carnegie Mellon University's Rodlescia Sneed and Sheldon Cohen shows that unpleasant or demanding interpersonal encounters increase hypertension risk among older adults. Published in the American Psychological Association's journal Health Psychology, the study provides some of the first concrete evidence that negative social interactions not only influence psychological well-being but also physical health – in this case, blood pressure levels. Hypertension affects an estimated 65 million Americans and is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S.

"This demonstrates how important social networks are as we age - constructing strong, positive relationships are beneficial to prolonged health," said Sheldon Cohen, according to the May 28, 2014 news release, "Negative social interactions increase hypertension risk in older adults." Sheldon Cohen is the Robert E. Doherty University Professor of Psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. You also may wish to see "Does Positive Affect Influence Health?"

For the study, Sneed and Cohen used data from the Health and Retirement Study, a multi-year survey of 1,502 healthy adults aged 50 and over. In 2006, the frequency of negative interactions – exchanges or behaviors that involved excessive demands, criticism, disappointment or other unpleasantness – with their partners, children, other family members and friends was assessed by questionnaire. Blood pressure was measured at this assessment as well as four years later.

The results show that each increase in the total average negative social interaction score was associated with a 38 percent increased chance of developing hypertension over the four-year period

Younger older adults – those aged 51-64 – were also more affected than those 65 or older. The researchers also observed sex differences in their findings. While negative interactions predicted hypertension risk among women, these interactions were not related to hypertension risk among men.

"There is a body of evidence in social psychology research suggesting that women care more about and pay more attention to the quality of their relationships," said Sneed, according to the news release. Sneed is a Ph.D. candidate in psychology. "Our findings suggest that women are particularly sensitive to negative interactions, which is consistent with this previous work."

The researchers also found that the type of relationship matters

Negative interactions between friends and family led to an increase in hypertension risk while poor encounters with partners and children did not make a difference. "Interpersonal conflicts are the most commonly reported stressor, so understanding their impact on health and well-being is particularly important," said Sneed, according to the news release. This research was partially supported by the National Institute of Health's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

You also may wish to see, "Family History of Hypertension is Related to Maladaptive Behavioral Responses as well as Exaggerated Physiological Reactions to Stress, According to Study." Or check out "Social Networks Linked to Better Health for Older Adults, Studies Find."

Social Networks Linked to Better Health for Older Adults, Studies Find

Diverse social roles and physical activity can be beneficial but negative social interactions present health risks, says another study.

Having regular positive interactions with family and friends and being involved in several different social networks can help older adults be healthier, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

“Close connections with others are likely to promote but can also sometimes detract from good health by shaping daily behavior that directly affects physical health,” said Lynn M. Martire, PhD, according to the May 28, 2014 news release, ""Social Networks Linked to Better Health for Older Adults, Studies Find." Martire is with the Pennsylvania State University.

Martire and Melissa M. Franks, PhD, of Purdue University, were guest editors for a special issue of APA’s Health Psychology coming out in June, 2014. “In some cases, the behavior may have to do with physical activity and in others, it might be related to diet or managing a chronic disease, such as diabetes,” Martire added, according to the news release.

The influence of social relationships on mortality risk is comparable to that of smoking and alcohol consumption, according to previous research. Many questions remain, however, such as how social networks come about and the nature of the relationships, Martire and Franks point out in “The Role of Social Networks in Adult Health: Introduction to the Special Issue (PDF).”

The studies and some of the key findings include:

Negative Social Interactions and Incident Hypertension Among Older Adults (PDF)” by Rodlescia S. Sneed, PhD, and Sheldon Cohen, PhD, of Carnegie Mellon University. In a national sample of approximately 1,500 adults older than 50, negative social interactions were associated with a greater risk for hypertension among women and individuals ages 51 to 64.

Excessive demands, criticism and disappointment were examples of negative social interactions. These kinds of unpleasant encounters could be linked to hypertension in older adults because of their psychological effects, such as depression and general unhappiness, according to the study. Negative social interactions have also been linked to harmful coping behaviors, such as smoking, drinking alcohol and less physical activity, the study said.

You also may wish to check out, “Social Relationships, Leisure Activity, and Health in Older Adults (PDF)” by Po-Ju Chang, PhD, Linda Wray, PhD, and Yeqiang Lin, MA, the Pennsylvania State University. Social networks are associated with more involvement in leisure activities, which in turn, can lead to better health in older adults, according to this study.

Leisure activities, defined as an activity not involving pay, could be as ordinary as home maintenance or cooking. Researchers examined data from 2,965 older Americans, who were interviewed by telephone in 2006 and again in 2010. In 2010, they were on average 70 years old, 55 percent female, 59 percent married and 84 percent white. Leisure activities involving physical exercise were the most beneficial. Physical health was measured by the participants’ body mass index, number of diagnosed chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, and responses to questions about their overall health.

Another noteworthy research paper is, “Social Integration and Pulmonary Function in the Elderly (PDF)” by Crista N. Crittenden, PhD, Sheldon Cohen, PhD, and Denise Janicki-Deverts, PhD, Carnegie Mellon University; Sarah D. Pressman, PhD, Bruce W. Smith, PhD, University of New Mexico; and Teresa E. Seeman, PhD, University of California, Irvine.

While previous research has found that marriage can be good for people’s pulmonary health as they age, it’s not the only social connection that plays a role in older adults’ lung function, this study found. Having several different social roles, such as employee, parent, club member, church member and volunteer, was also linked to better lung function.

“What mattered most was the diversity of roles with which the person identifies, irrespective of which specific roles are involved,” the study said, according to the news release

Researchers examined data from a MacArthur Research Network study of 1,147 adults, average age 74, of whom 55 percent were women, 48 percent were married, 19 percent were non-white and 19 percent were employed. Noteworthy is that those with disabilities were not in the study.

To be included, participants had to be physically active and alert with no disabilities. Data about their social activities were collected in face-to-face interviews during which lung function was measured.

Other studies in the special issue are:

Dyadic Collaboration in Shared Health Behavior Change: The Effects of a Randomized Trial to Test a Lifestyle Intervention for High-Risk Latinas (PDF)” by Dara H. Sorkin, PhD, Karen S. Rook, PhD, Kelly A. Biegler, PhD, David Kilgore, MD, and Emily Dow, MD, University of California, Irvine; Shahrzad Mavandadi, PhD, Philadelphia VA Medical Center and University of Pennsylvania; and Quyen Ngo-Metzger, MD, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration.

You also may wish to take a look at the article, “Who Needs a Friend? Marital Status Transitions and Physical Health Outcomes in Later Life (PDF)” by Jamila Bookwala, PhD, and Kirsten I. Marshall, PhD, Lafayette College; and Suzanne W. Manning, PhD, Fordham University.

Another noteworthy study is “Physical and Social Activities Mediate the Associations Between Social Network Types and Ventilatory Function in Chinese Older Adults (PDF)” by Sheung-Tak Cheng, PhD, Hong Kong Institute of Education; Edward M. F. Leung, MD, United Christian Hospital, Hong Kong; and Trista Wai Sze Chan, MPhil, Indiana University.

Or check out the research, “Social Network Characteristics Associated With Health Promoting Behaviors Among Latinos (PDF)” by Becky Marquez, PhD, University of California, San Diego; John P. Elder, PhD, MPH, Elva M. Arredondo, PhD, Hala Madanat, PhD, Ming Ji, PhD, and Guadalupe X. Ayala, PhD, MPH, San Diego State University, San Diego Prevention Research Center and Institute for Behavioral and Community Health, San Diego.

These articles appear in the Special Issue: The Role of Social Networks in Adult Health, Health Psychology, Vol. 33, No. 6, June 2014. Also, if you're interested in attending the latest conference on forensic mental health topics, check out the 14th Annual Meeting of the International Association of Forensic Mental Health Services. The conference will focus on the theme of “Trauma, Violence and Recovery: Risk and Resilience Across the Lifespan.” The conference runs from June 19-22, 2014.

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