According to a new study published in the Brain, Behaviour and Immunity journal, the husband of a woman diagnosed with breast cancer has significantly more health problems than those with healthy wives.
This new research involved a total of 32 men all of whom had been married for an average of 25 years, half of the men had wives diagnosed with breast cancer. The men, who reported the highest levels of stress in response to their wives’ cancer, were at a higher risk of having physical illnesses and weaker immune responses.
Latest understandings in Mind-Body medicine suggests major life events such as a diagnosis of breast cancer or having a spouse diagnosed with an illness (both high factors of the Social Readjustment Rating Scale) are major stressors. The stress related with such life events can arouse a number of physical changes within the body via the fight or flight response . The fight of flight response can become overactive and can subsequently be a cause of long term health problems such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and hair loss .
This research should not be perceived as an added demand on a woman not to depend on her husband through fear of stressing him. Rather, it could be used to highlight the importance of communication and the need for both husband and wife to have adequate relaxation techniques.
Mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce the negative impact stress and anxiety can have on physical health. Mindfulness has been shown to help enhance the immune system, relieve stress levels and the negative impact it could have had on the nervous system, cardiovascular system. Therefore it could be an important practice that both the husband and wife could learn and benefit from together.