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That bad romance may make you sick

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Flawed relationships may cause more than drama — a new study finds that people who feel anxious about relationships or avoid them could be predisposed to certain health problems.

The study, published in an issue of the journal Health Psychology looked at data on 5,645 people who took part in the nationally represented survey of adults ages 18 to 60. Participants were surveyed about their relationships to determine if they had secure attachments (being comfortable depending on others and being close to others), avoidant attachments (feeling uncomfortable being close to others and having difficulty trusting others) or anxious attachments (feeling reluctant about getting close to people and worrying about not being loved).

They were also quizzed about their medical histories, focusing on issues such as asking about chronic pain, diseases, or conditions such as high blood pressure or asthma.

Researchers noticed an association between having an avoidant attachment and pain-related conditions such as severe headaches. Having an anxious attachment was linked with health concerns that involved pain or cardiovascular conditions such as stroke, heart attack or high blood pressure. The researchers adjusted for differences in demographics and for lifelong histories of psychological syndromes such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse.

"These findings suggest that insecure attachment may be a risk factor for a wide range of health problems, particularly cardiovascular diseases," said study lead author Lachlan McWilliams of Canada's Acadia University in a news release. "Longitudinal research on this topic is needed to determine whether insecure attachment predicts the development of cardiovascular disease and the occurrence of cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks. The findings also raise the possibility that interventions aimed at improving attachment security could also have positive health outcomes."

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