by Kathy Sena
If you feel insecure about your attachments to others, you might be at higher risk for cardiovascular problems, compared with those who feel secure in their relationships, according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association.
“This is the first study to examine adult attachment and a range of specific health conditions,” says lead author Lachlan A. McWilliams, Ph.D., of Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada.
McWilliams and a colleague looked at data on 5,645 people ages 18 to 60 and found that people who felt insecure in relationships or who avoided getting close to others might be at a higher risk of developing several chronic diseases.
“Much of the health research regarding attachment has focused on pain conditions, so we were initially surprised that some of our strongest findings involved conditions related to the cardiovascular system,” says McWilliams.
Participants rated themselves on three attachment styles – secure, avoidant and anxious. Secure attachment refers to feeling able to get close to others and being willing to have others depend on you. Avoidant attachment refers to difficulty getting close to others and trusting others. Anxious attachment refers to the tendency to worry about rejection, feel needy and find others are reluctant to get close to you.
The participants answered a questionnaire about their histories of arthritis, chronic back or neck problems, frequent or severe headaches, other forms of chronic pain, seasonal allergies, stroke and heart attack. They also disclosed whether a doctor had told them they had heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma, chronic lung disease, diabetes or high blood sugar, ulcers, epilepsy, seizures or cancer. They were questioned regarding their history of psychological disorders as well.
After adjusting for other variables that could account for these health conditions, the authors found that avoidant attachment was associated with conditions defined primarily by pain, such as frequent or severe headaches. Anxious attachment was positively associated with a wider range of health conditions, including some defined primarily by pain and several involving the cardiovascular system, such as stroke, heart attack or high blood pressure.
Could improving our relationships — and feeling more secure in them — affect our health in concrete ways? These findings seem to point in that direction. It seems the more we learn about the mind-body connection, the more important links we find.
Kathy Sena is an award-winning health and parenting writer and the mother of a 14-year-old son. Visit her website at www.kathysena.com and check out her blog, Parent Talk Today, at www.parenttalktoday.com.