Abstract and Keywords
For most adults, marriage is a key social relationship that provides economic, social, psychological, and health benefits. At the same time, low marital quality and high conflict have detrimental effects on health. This chapter reviews evidence for immune mechanisms that may explain how marital functioning influences health. Poor marital functioning is related to enhanced innate immunity and diminished adaptive immunity, in a similar direction as the effects of chronic stress. Biobehavioral mechanisms that explain how marital functioning influences immunity include health behaviors; psychological mechanisms including depression, social rejection, and social support; and neuroendocrine mechanisms. Female gender and older age may magnify the effects of marital functioning on immunity, although more research is needed. Key directions for future research on marriage and immunity include further explicating biopsychosocial mechanisms, expanding the sociodemographic range of couples in marriage and immunity research, studying couples outside the laboratory, and incorporating couples intervention research.
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