Animal studies have implicated oxytocin and vasopressin in social bonding, physiological stress responses, and wound healing. In humans, endogenous oxytocin and vasopressin levels covary with perceptions of relationship quality, marital behaviors, and physiological stress responses. To investigate relationships among marital behavior, oxytocin, vasopressin, and wound healing, and to determine the characteristics of individuals with the highest neuropeptide levels, 37 couples were admitted for a 24-h visit in a hospital research unit. After small blister wounds were created on their forearm, couples participated in a structured social support interaction task. Blister sites were monitored daily following discharge to assess wound repair speed. Blood samples were collected for oxytocin, vasopressin, and cytokine analyses. Higher oxytocin levels were associated with more positive communication behaviors during the structured interaction task. Furthermore, individuals in the upper oxytocin quartile healed blister wounds faster than participants in lower oxytocin quartiles. Higher vasopressin levels were related to fewer negative communication behaviors and greater tumor necrosis factor-alpha production. Moreover, women in the upper vasopressin quartile healed the experimental wounds faster than the remainder of the sample. These data confirm and extend prior evidence implicating oxytocin and vasopressin in couples' positive and negative communication behaviors, and also provide further evidence of their role in an important health outcome, wound healing.
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