Lisa Jaremka, assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences
at the University of Delaware, has been recognized by the Association
for Psychological Science (APS) for her research on the consequences of
negative social experiences, including rejection, loneliness and marital
The APS designated Jaremka as a “Rising Star” and said that her
“innovative work has already advanced the field and signals great
potential for [her] continued contributions.” The award is given to
scientists in the earliest stages of their independent research careers.
Jaremka studies interpersonal relationships and the effects that
negative experiences in those relationships have on physical health. She
and her research team in UD’s Close Relationships and Health Lab
collect blood and saliva samples and measure such biological markers as
blood pressure and inflammation levels in individuals who are
experiencing social stress.
“I think most people know that stress is bad for you,” Jaremka said.
“But I don’t think they know the degree to which it affects the immune
system, and there’s clear evidence that it does have a very negative
“That’s alarming to me because our immune system is so important to our ability to function.”
Some physiological indicators show up almost immediately in stressful
situations, she said, such as the rise in blood pressure that commonly
occurs during a heated argument. But other effects may develop over a
longer period of time, including weakened immune systems.
Although all types of stress can damage an individual’s physical
health, Jaremka said she sees important differences in the stress caused
by negative social or interpersonal experiences relative to other
“People have a basic need to feel cared for and loved by others,” she
said. “Failing an exam is stressful, but it doesn’t threaten this basic
“Social stress — loneliness or rejection — is different because it
directly impacts a person’s basic need to feel connected to others.
Loneliness is a chronic state of feeling unloved, and thus can be
Jaremka and her team observe people experiencing various types of
interpersonal stress and measure their physiological reactions.
Last year, she co-authored a paper in the journal Clinical Psychological Science
that found links between marital stress, appetite, diet and body mass.
By studying hunger hormones in couples after hostile arguments, the
researchers found that those arguments were linked to poor food choices
among non-obese people.
Jaremka, who joined the UD faculty in 2014, earned a doctorate in
social psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and
held a postdoctoral position at Ohio State University.