New research has found that men take longer to recover after a bad argument with their partners when there are high levels of hostility. Comparatively, women who report a general sense of anxiety suffered from prolonged stress within their body upon discussing relationship problems.
The researchers recruited 138 first time expecting mothers and their partners (82 of the couples were married). The couples individually completed questionnaires in the comfort of their own home before participating in two six-minute recorded discussions. The first discussion was about something neutral unrelated to the relationship. The second discussion was about three things that has caused arguments for example, finances, house work, working hours.
Salava samples were taken from each participant before and during both discussions to measure the amount of cortisol being circulated in the body in a response to the stress of the discussions. Additionally, samples were taken 20 minutes after the discussions to establish if the stress response had subsided.
The results showed that there was a significant difference between the responses of men and women. The results also showed that responses differed depending on the levels of personal anxiety, relationship conflict and interpersonal hostility.
Men remained stressed for longer after talking about relationship problems particularly when the discussion was argumentative. Women on the other hand remained stressed for longer if they were generally more anxious and the amount of hostility was lower.
This research shows how men and women differ and so require mindful communication to ensure potentially stressful conversations can be held with minimised impact on physiology and health.