Anxiety about our close relationships may function as a chronic stressor that may lead to lowered immunity. Married couples were asked to complete questionnaires about their relationship and key stress related hormones and immune cells were collected in a research study published in the journal Psychological Science.  The researchers found that people who had high levels of attachment (separation) anxiety produced more cortisol (a steroid hormone that is released in response to stress) and had fewer T cells (which form an important part of the immune system) than those who were less anxiously attached. People who are on the high end of the attachment anxiety spectrum are excessively concerned about being rejected, have a tendency to constantly seek reassurance that they are loved, and are more likely to interpret ambiguous events in a relationship as negative.

Attachment anxiety is considered to develop during early childhood. At a very young age, children learn whether or not their primary caregivers will respond when the children are in distress. If caregivers are responsive, children learn they can rely on other people. If care is inconsistent or neglectful, children can develop feelings of insecurity that might manifest as attachment anxiety later in life. For more on attachment please see attachment related blog posts.

Click here to read the original research article.