A graduate student at the University of Arizona is investigating how arguing with a romantic partner affects the immune system and long-term health.

Rebecca Reed, who is a doctoral candidate in family studies and human development at the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is researching the way couples recover from relationship strife and how that might affect their overall health. An ability to recover from stressful situations could reduce one’s risk for chronic illness.

Reed recently told UANews that when a person perceives a threat, the body mounts an almost instantaneous stress response, releasing hormones and immune biomarkers that issue a kind of call to arms to the body’s immune cells.

“When we give a public speech or have an argument with a loved one, our immune system responds to that,” Reed told UANews. “But a really critical part of the process is to recover afterwards and to decrease your immune response when it’s no longer needed.”

The research project is titled “Couples Healthy Immune and Emotions Study,” and Reed is looking for heterosexual couples over the age of 21 to participate in the study.

During the study, couples will complete an online survey about their emotions, daily stressors, health behaviors and relationship functioning. Couples will be asked to provide a saliva sample to assess immune functioning, and will complete a brief diary entry four times per day for five consecutive days.

Couples will also be videotaped talking together about their relationships. Physiological measures such as heart rate and blood pressure will be measured. Monetary compensation will be provided.