Studies have shown that being in the presence of a romantic partner helps mitigate numerous factors of discomfort and stress.
For instance, one study has shown that participants who received painful stimuli felt less pain if they were close to their partners.
Recently, a team of psychologists from the University of Arizona in Tucson has conducted a study that suggests that being in the presence of your partner can help you cope with stress and that, more intriguing still, even just thinking about your significant other can have the same positive effects.
The research, which features in the journal Psychophysiology, involved 102 participants to whom the investigators assigned a stress-inducing task.
This task required each volunteer to dip one foot into 3-inch-deep water with temperatures between 38–40°F (approximately 3.3–4.4°C).
To establish the amount of stress that each participant felt, the researchers assessed their blood pressure, heart rate, and heart rate variability before, during, and at the end of the experiment.
“This [finding] 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,” says senior study author Kyle Bourassa.
“And it appears that thinking of your partner as a source of support can be just as powerful as actually having them present,” he adds.
Bourassa does, however, note that the current study looked only at college undergraduates, a very specific cohort, and he suggests that future research should aim to include participants of more diverse ages.
Should other studies replicate the current findings, the researcher believes that this could provide relevant information for people who have to cope with high levels of stress on a regular basis.
“Life is full of stress, and one critical way we can manage this stress is through our relationships — either with our partner directly or by calling on a mental image of that person,” notes Bourassa.