Having a romantic partner present — even in your mind — can help you keep blood pressure down in daily stressful situations, say researchers.
When faced with a stressful situation, thinking about your romantic partner may help keep blood pressure under control just as effectively as actually having your significant other in the room with you, according to a study by University of Arizona psychologists.
“This suggests that one way being in a romantic relationship might support people’s health is through allowing people to better cope with stress and lower levels of cardiovascular reactivity to stress across the day,” said psychology doctoral student Kyle Bourassa.
“It appears that thinking of your partner as a source of support can be just as powerful as actually having them present,” Bourassa added.
For the study, published in the journal Psychophysiology, 102 participants were asked to complete a stressful task — submerging one foot into 3 inches of cold water ranging from 38 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Researchers measured the participants’ blood pressure, heart rate, and heart rate variability before, during and after the task.
The participants, all of whom were in committed romantic relationships, either had their significant other sitting quietly in the room with them during the task or they were instructed to think about their romantic partner as a source of support during the task. In the third scenario, they were instructed to think about their day during the task.
The effect on blood pressure reactivity was just as powerful whether the partner was physically present or merely conjured mentally.
“The findings may help explain, in part, why high-quality romantic relationships are consistently associated with positive health outcomes in the scientific literature,” said Bourassa.
If replicated, the findings could have implications for those facing everyday stressful situations, the researchers added.