Stressed Birds Make Bad Spouses


Did you know that a stressed-out partner can shorten your life? Better pack your Nervous Ned/Nelly off to a psychiatrist … if, that is, you’re a bird.

Study author Pat Monaghan tells the Telegraph about his team’s findings:

The take-home message is that the wrong kind of partner can be very bad for your health.
Other research led us to expect that increased stress exposure in early life would reduce adult lifespan, but we were not expecting such a big effect on breeding partners.

Those would be bird breeding partners. Researchers gave some zebra finches stress hormones when they were chicks, and left the rest alone. Later, they paired the stressed and unstressed finches off with feathered lady- and dude-friends. The stressed finches had shorter lives, and so did their mates — says Monaghan “unstressed birds had mortality rates that were four times higher than normal if they were simply given partners that had experienced stress earlier in their lives.” He thinks this can tell us a lot about human relationships:

If you extrapolate this to humans, you could hypothesize that during the recession, for instance, someone who suffered stress as an infant may feel the problems more. And this would be bad news for their partner.
Birds, like humans, are monogamous creatures and also respond to stress in a very similar way.

Fair enough — an anxious partner can certainly increase one’s own anxiety, which in turn can have an impact on health. But humans arguably have far more resources than birds to mitigate anxiety or treat the ill effects of stress early in life. And anyway, it’s not always possible to pick a partner who had a blissful childhood — nor should people who may have had tough times early on be denied a shot at love. So even if Monaghan’s conclusions do hold for humans, you probably shouldn’t make your relationship decisions based on a bunch of dead birds.

Stressed-Out Partner Can Lead To Early Death [Telegraph]

Image via Theodore Scott/

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