Research and Creative Activity: Dr. Josh Pederson

Nov 8, 2017

Have you ever wondered about the toll your daily stress level could have on your health over a long period of time? What about whether or not your interpersonal relationships can add to that stress? C&IS professor, Dr. Josh Pederson is asking those same questions, and now he’s got the grant funding to find out.

Pederson is part of a research team that has been awarded a Level-2, collaborative project grant from the Research Grant Committee at The University of Alabama. Totaling over $26,000, this grant is the first of its kind for the College of Communication and Information Sciences.

The project, a collaboration with Drs. Sonya Pritzker and  Jason DeCaro of the Department of Anthropology, explores how interactions within close relationships influences peoples’ immediate physiology as well as their health over time. The group will observe 10 couples aged 60-75 in the couple’s home and measure their stress via a heart rate monitor, and saliva and hair test kits which will report their stress levels at different points across various time periods.

Working from several research questions, they hope to locate similar patterns across enough couples in order to draw conclusions about how communication in close relationships affects stress and physical health.  Using the findings from this first smaller test group, their plan is to apply for a larger grant with the National Science Foundation to conduct similar research on a larger scale.

“There’s lots of different ways people can feel stress on their bodies, especially if we’re talking about processing emotions,” said Pederson. “There might be a way where talking to people can make you feel a lot better, and if you can do that regularly, over long periods of time, you may be helping your body avoid stress patterns that potentially lead to chronic illness.”

This study falls under how Pederson generally classifies his research, supportive communication and coping. “I’m interested in how people work together to deal with challenging life experiences, particularly when things in relationships go wrong,” said Pederson. “I want to know how people in our personal networks help us cope with something that is particularly stressful, damaging, hurtful or challenging?”

“A big, grand idea for me, in doing research is answering the question, ‘How can people live more harmoniously?’ said Pederson. “We don’t have to always be as divisive as we sometimes see on the news. We can find more productive ways to be in conflict.”

The College of Communication and Information Sciences’ faculty and students at The University of Alabama conduct cutting-edge research that creates knowledge and provides solutions to global issues across the full communication and information spectrum. To learn more about our research initiatives, visit cis.ua.edu/research.