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The Influence of Communication on Physiology and Health

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Edited By James M. Honeycutt, Chris R. Sawyer and Shaughan Keaton

There is a significant amount of research that substantiates the connection between social support/relationships and the development, onset, and/or recovery of several physical diseases/illnesses. Research has shown, for example, that an unhappy marriage can increase the likelihood of becoming ill by 35% while stressful communication can lead to an increase in cardiovascular reactivity which in turn increases the risk of coronary heart disease and premature mortality.
This volume provides a comprehensive overview of the influences of communication on physiology and physical health status occurring in a variety of contexts, from families, interpersonal relationships, and public speaking to sport fandom, affection, fear, and the escalation of conflict. It offers a broad and up-to-date review of the relevant literature in this area of study.
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Section 2: Immunological and Hematological Studies

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Chapter 6

Affectionate Communication Is Associated with Markers of Immune and Cardiovascular System Competence

Kory Floyd, Perry M. Pauley, Colin Hesse, Alice E. Veksler, Jen Eden, and Alan C. Mikkelson

Social scientists have considered the desire to be loved and appreciated a fundamental human need for decades (Baumeister & Leary, 1995; Brown & Levinson, 1987; Maslow, 1970). A robust empirical literature demonstrates mental and physical health benefits of exchanging expressions of love and appreciation via affectionate behavior (see Floyd, 2006a). The communication of affection has been linked to mental health and well-being (Floyd, Hess, Miczo, Halone, Mikkelson, & Tusing, 2005), relationship satisfaction and stability (Huston, Caughlin, Houts, Smith, & George, 2001), cardiovascular health (Floyd, Hesse, & Haynes, 2007), endocrine health (Floyd, 2006b; Holt-Lundstad, Birmingham, & Light, 2008), and improvements in blood lipid levels (Floyd, Boren, Hannawa, Hesse, McEwan, & Veksler, ← 115 | 116 → 2009; Floyd, Mikkelson, Hesse, & Pauley, 2007). In comparison, the lack of affectionate expression predicts elevated probabilities for psychological and physical distress (Schwartz & Russek, 1998), psychosomatic illness (Komisaruk & Whipple, 1998), clinical depression (Mackinnon, Henderson, & Andrews, 1993; Oliver, Raftery, Reeb, & Delaney, 1993), loneliness (Downs & Javidi, 1990), and substance abuse (Shuntich, Loh, & Katz, 1998).

Contemporary theory suggests that affectionate communication may contribute to well-being primarily by modulating the body’s stress response. Specifically, Floyd’s (2006b) affection exchange theory (AET) offers that affectionate communication accomplishes adaptive goals related to individual viability primarily by attenuating...

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