When spouses are in close proximity to each other, one of them affects the other’s heart rate – and vice versa.
Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (USA) have found that older couples have synchronized heart rates when spouses are close to each other. The research is published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.
The authors of the work measured the pulse – a physiological marker of arousal – in ten heterosexual couples (age 64-88 years), being in a long marriage (from 14 to 65 years).
To do this, for two weeks, the participants in the experiment wore special electronic devices. At the same time, a second device, whose sensors were placed around houses, tracked the spouses’ proximity to each other.
Each evening, the researchers called their subjects and asked them about how the day had gone, if they had fought, and about their overall health and well-being.
“The first step was to test if there was a link between heart rate and proximity. We looked at the husband’s heart rate against the background of intimacy, then the wife’s heart rate against the background of intimacy, and then the indicators of both. In addition, we wanted to understand if all three variables worked together. Can any of them be used to predict others? And the answer is yes, ”the scientists said.
As it turned out, the heartbeat of the spouses was synchronized taking into account the so-called lead / lag ratio (this coefficient shows how many times the level of one row of dynamics grows (lags behind) more than the other): in other words, the frequency of contractions in each pair was set by one of the partners.
Sometimes the “leader” was the wife, sometimes – on the contrary, the husband.
“Proximity was invariably associated with each partner’s heart rate, but the magnitude and sequence of the correlation varied from day to day, meaning that the relationship between proximity and heart rate was driven by the interaction, not the couple.
“In addition, our predictive model showed that all three variables are necessary for optimal prediction: proximity and heart rate of partners are dynamically interrelated,” added the authors of the paper. Scientists, however, failed to identify the patterns underlying the shifts.
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I don’t doubt this. I noticed years ago that my husband’s breathing would synchronize with mine as he lay sleeping and I was still awake. I’d even purposefully change my rhythm to see if he’d also change. Every time his would.