Washington State Magazine

Summer 2007

Summer 2007

In This Issue...


It felt like coming home :: With Lane Rawlins, Washington State University has "become what a lot of people envisioned it could be." Even though he has plenty of ideas of what to do next, it is time to hand over the presidency. by Hannelore Sudermann

The presidents :: The fledgling Washington State Agricultural College hired and fired two presidents in two years. But then Enoch Bryan arrived, with his vision of a college of science and technology "shot through and through with the spirit of the liberal arts." Since Bryan, the succeeding presidents of Washington State University have established something of a rhythmic cycle of stirring things up and reconciliation, with lots of good drama and ideas mixed in. by Tim Steury

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Our Story: WSU presidents I have known (or known of) :: The secretary of Glenn Terrell and Clement French gives the lowdown on her former bosses and their predecessors. by Gen De Vleming }

Counting cougs :: Between 1995, the year before Washington banned the hunting of cougars with hounds, and 2000, the number of human-cougar encounters nearly quadrupled. Although encounters have returned to pre-ban levels in some areas, the public perception is that cougars are making a comeback—and must be stopped. But Hillary Cooley and Rob Wielgus insist that much of what we think we know about cougars is wrong. And their argument rests with the young males. by Cherie Winner

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Gallery: Counting Cougs :: Stalking the wild—and elusive—cougar with graduate student Hilary Cooley in northeastern Washington. A photo gallery by Robert Hubner. }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Gallery: Project CAT :: In September 2006, photographer Robert Hubner joined graduate students Hilary Cooley and Ben Maletzke on a trip to capture and collar a cougar kitten, with the help of students from the Cle Elum-Roslyn schools' Project CAT. }

Biology by the numbers:: In normal times, Europe's brown bears live in a state of happy equilibrium. But under certain circumstances, things can go seriously awry, leading the males to commit what researcher Robert Wielgus calls sexually selected infanticide. Wielgus's most powerful tool against this eventuality is math. by Cherie Winner

Hops & beer :: Raising the raw ingredients for beer can be just as complex and interesting as growing grapes for wine, says Jason Perrault '97, '01. Like grapes, hops have different varieties and characteristics. Perrault, fourth-generation heir to a hops-farming legacy, runs a hops breeding program for Yakima Valley growers, helping to ensure that Washington continues to provide three-quarters of the hops grown in this country. by Hannelore Sudermann


:: World Class. Face to Face. It's not a slogan, it's a plan. President Rawlins shares some parting thoughts on the eve of his retirement.

:: Questioning the questions

:: Happy—and healthy—ever after


:: FOOD AND FORAGE: It's rhubarb pie time!

:: SPORTS: Baseball's my game

:: SPORTS: Hoop dreams


Cover: V. Lane Rawlins steps down as WSU's ninth president, having given the University a stronger sense of itself and its role in the state. Read the story. Illustration by Steve O'Brien.

WSU psychologist John Ruiz explores how your spouse's personality can help you heal... or speed your demise.

WSU psychologist John Ruiz explores how your spouse's personality can help you heal... or speed your demise. Robert Hubner

Happy—and healthy—ever after

by | © Washington State University

"In sickness or in health. . ."

That noble sentiment of the traditional marriage vow says your spouse promises to stick with you if you get sick. What it doesn't say, and what a study by Washington State University psychologist John Ruiz (photo) and researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University now shows, is that your spouse's personality can help you heal--or speed your demise.

And, in the happiest of endings, being satisfied with your partner, no matter what his or her personality, is like an inoculation against all the bad things wrought by depression and anxiety.

Drawing on a subject group of 111 couples in which the husband had coronary artery bypass surgery, Ruiz and his colleagues assessed aspects of personality, symptoms of depression, and overall marital satisfaction for each patient and spouse prior to the surgery and again 18 months afterward.

They found that in general, the personality of the wife predicted the depression level of the patient during recovery. A patient married to a neurotic and anxious spouse was more likely to report symptoms of depression 18 months following the surgery. The study focused on anxiety as a general personality trait, not as a natural response to one's spouse experiencing a health crisis.

"In other words, the spouse's personality--quite independent of the patient's own personality--exerted a major influence on how well the patient was feeling and progressing towards recovery," says Ruiz.

The link between patient depression and health problems isn't new; over the past several years, doctors have recognized that cardiac patients who are depressed run a significantly higher risk of heart attacks and death than those with an optimistic outlook. What's new is the demonstration of how profoundly cardiac patients can be affected by the people closest to them.

"We've known for some time that a patient's personality and mood before surgery influence their own mental and physical recovery following surgery," says Ruiz. "We also know that a partner's personality and mood can affect us in the short term. What we were hoping to answer was whether a partner's personality traits are also determinants of our own long-term emotional and physical recovery from a major health challenge."

Now, thanks to Ruiz, we know that the personality of the patient's spouse might be a big factor in aiding his recovery--or pushing him into depression.

"Our study suggests that there's a distinct possibility that a spouse's personality can increase depression, which may then lead to these negative physical outcomes," he says.

Ruiz found that the cheerfulness factor works for both partners. Caring for a spouse after surgery can be demanding and stressful, even when the recovering patient is upbeat, he says; in his study, the wives caring for neurotic, anxious partners were more likely to show signs of strain and depression a year and a half after the surgery.

He says he doesn't know yet what it is that more neurotic spouses do that causes depression in their partners.

"Are they creating more stress, or being less helpful, or burdening a person who is already having a difficult time with their own needs?" he says.

A more optimistic result of the study showed that marital satisfaction trumped the other findings.

"Being married to a neurotic, anxious person was only harmful for those who were unhappy in their marriage," he says. "Heart patients who were happy in their marriage were able to overlook their spouse's [neurotic] characteristics."

Ruiz plans to examine the issue further as he follows the couples from the study and embarks on new projects exploring how our personality traits affect our family and friends. In the meantime, he says, if you're facing cardiac problems and you're happy in your marriage, don't worry. Love conquers all.

Categories: Psychology | Tags: Marriage

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