Research

Research in the Relationships Lab explores questions addressing the social determinants of health, their biological grounding, and relevance for cognition, emotion, and behavior. Current topics of interest include:

Social Isolation and Loneliness

Increasing evidence suggests that perceived social isolation or loneliness is a major risk factor for physical and mental illness, yet much remains unknown about the mechanisms that underlie the association between social isolation (objective and perceived) and health, particularly among older individuals among whom declining economic resources, illness, widowhood, and impaired mobility may result in increased risks for social isolation and loneliness.

Our lab aims to characterize the mechanisms that may account for the health effects of loneliness in older adults. This line of work seeks to delineate the pathways (e.g., health behaviors, sleep salubrity, biological systems, social cognition) that act to accelerate the rate of morbidity in lonely older adults.

Social Connection And Biological Aging

Most studies linking social support to age-related changes in biological health have tended to focus on the physiological correlates of interpersonal conflicts rather than interpersonal strengths. The question of how social connectedness, defined as having quality ties to others, is linked to health is of particular importance for older adults given the stability and centrality of interpersonal relationships in later life. 

Current projects seek to probe the emotional pathways by which the positive aspects of social relationships (e.g., affection, warmth, intimacy) contribute to cardiovascular health in adulthood and later life.

Perceived Responsiveness and Close Relationships

Little is known about the specific aspects of close relationships that matter most for physical health. In this line of research, we are examining the association between perceived partner responsiveness—the extent to which people believe that their partners understand, validate, and care for them—and physical health.

We are currently investigating the pathways through which perceived responsiveness in romantic relationships affect long-term health and ultimately longevity. We are particularly interested in the extent to which partner responsiveness is indirectly associated with favorable profiles of health via alterations in autonomic, neuroendocrine, inflammatory, and immune responses.

SELECTIVE PUBLICATIONS

Tasfiliz, D.,Selçuk, E., Günaydin, G., Slatcher, R. B., Corriero, E. F., & Ong, A. D. (2018). Patterns of perceived partner responsiveness and well-being in Japan and the United States. Journal of Family Psychology, 32, 335-365. pdf

Selçuk, E., Stanton, S., Slatcher, R., & Ong, A. D. (2017). Perceived partner responsiveness predicts better sleep quality through lower anxiety. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 8, 83-92pdf

Ong, A. D., Uchino, B., & Wethington, E. (2016). Loneliness and health in older adults: A mini-review and synthesis. Gerontology,   62, 443-449. pdf 

Selçuk, E., Günaydın, G., Ong, A. D., & Almeida, D. M. (2016). Does perceived partner responsiveness predict hedonic and eudaimonic well-being? A 10-year longitudinal study. Journal of Marriage and Family, 78, 311-325. pdf

Slatcher. R. B., Selçuk, E., & Ong, A. D. (2015). Perceived partner responsiveness predicts diurnal cortisol profiles ten years later. Psychological Science26, 972-982. pdf

Selçuk, E., & Ong, A. D. (2013). Perceived partner responsiveness moderates the association between received emotional support and all-cause mortality. Health Psychology32, 231-235. pdf

Ong, A. D., Rothstein, J. D., & Uchino, B. N. (2012). Loneliness accentuates age differences in cardiovascular responses to social evaluative threat. Psychology and Aging27, 190-198. pdf

Ong, A. D., & Allaire, J. (2005). Cardiovascular intraindividual variability in later life: The influence of social connectedness and positive emotions. Psychology and Aging20, 476-485. pdf


Collaborators 

Gül Günaydin, Bilkent University

Emre Selçuk, Middle East Technical University

Rich Slatcher, Wayne State University

Sarah Stanton, University of Edinburgh

Bert Uchino, The University of Utah