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Marital stress is associated with a higher incidence of psychiatric disorders, in particular major depression. One pathway through which marital stress may impact emotional health is by compromising emotion-responding processes. We examined a longitudinal sample of adults (N = 116; 59 males; 39–84 years) to verify how marital stress predicts reactivity to, and recovery from, emotional provocation. Individuals watched positive, neutral, and negative pictures while an objective measure of affective state, corrugator supercilii muscle activity, was recorded continuously. Our results indicate that marital stress is associated with short-lived responses to positive pictures, indexed by a less persistent decrease in corrugator activity after picture offset. Extending beyond the prior focus on negative emotional processes, these results suggest that social stress may impact health by influencing the time course of responding to positive events.


Marital stress, Positive affect, Corrugator supercilii, Facial electromyography


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