Heart rates of longtime couples can synchronise when they're close together

·1-min read

It sounds like something out of a romance novel or movie.

But scientists have discovered that when partners are close to each other, their heart rates synchronise in complex patterns of interaction.

Researchers from the University of Illinois have examined the dynamics of long-term relationships through spatial proximity, with their study focused on 10 heterosexual, married couples who had been in relationships from 14 to 65 years.

Participants had their heart rates continuously tracked and, when at home, their proximity measured.

Accordingly, the findings indicated a lead-lag relationship in heart rate synchronisation, where one partner leads and the other follows. Sometimes the wife's heart rate would lead the change and other times the husband's heart rate would change and their spouse's would follow.

"This suggests a delicate balance. When one partner triggers the other partner, they start a unique couple-level dance that affects their physiology and their patterns throughout the day," said lead author Brian Ogolsky. "If we really want to understand the unique patterns of interaction that happen within couples, we need to start focusing our attention on micro processes; the small interaction patterns that accumulate over a day. Those tell us about the nature of how couples' interactions play out from moment to moment."

Full study results have been published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

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