Relationships and Mental Health Lab

Dr. Susan C. South, Ph.D.

Ongoing Studies

Daily Experiences of Relationship Stress (DISTRESS)

In collaboration with Dr. Chris Eckhardt’s team and graduate student Molly Maloney, the RMH lab is currently recruiting participants for an online study of relationship experiences. In this study, we are interested in understanding how stress, mood, and alcohol use impacts members of romantic couples. Participants complete online surveys, Zoom interviews, and respond to phone-based surveys over the course of several months. It is our hope to gain a better understand for whom and under what circumstances relationship conflict is most likely.

Interested in participating? Find us on Facebook or email the study team at for more information!


In collaboration with the ACT Lab (Dr. David Rollock and graduate student, Adi Osnaya), we are currently investigating the role of discrimination and relationship satisfaction upon the development and severity of psychological distress. This study hopes to see how relationship satisfaction may buffer or exacerbate minority stress, which may impact downstream psychopathology. Currently the study is recruiting Latinx and African American/Black college students and members of the community.

Minnesota Carolina Twin Study of Aging (MCTSA)

Age-related decline in cognitive functioning represents a major public health challenge. In the context of this costly and important challenge, one of the major contributions of psychological science has been to demonstrate that variation in adult cognitive health can be affected by the quality of psychosocial experiences.  In the Minnesota Carolina Twin Study of Aging (MCTSA) project, we will examine the effects of a comprehensive array of adverse interpersonal experiences (AIE) on mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in a sample of older twins. The MCTSA is a longitudinal study of geographically and ethnically diverse twins (twins of both African American and European American descent).

The United States is a rapidly aging population, with an estimated 17% of the population over 65 as of 2020. Life expectancy increased notably over the past 60 years, but along with increased longevity comes commensurate growth in the percentage of individuals experiencing cognitive decline. Approximately 1/3 of individuals over the age of 80 will experience dementia (Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, ADRD). This constitutes a serious public health burden, in terms of economic costs of caring for these individuals as well as the devastating psychological costs for friends and family members.  ADRD are heterogeneous disorders preceded by a long period of cognitive decline. MCI can be understood as the inability to perform cognitively as expected, based on age and education. Identifying those at risk for MCI represents a compelling way of improving our understanding of early emerging pathways of risk for eventual ADRD outcomes. The MCTSA project will collect an extensive battery of cognitive measures to determine MCI status.  Further, we will collect novel daily diary data on patterns of association between interpersonal experiences and cognitive functioning. Our overall hypothesis is that MCI is predicted by the quality and quantity of specific interpersonal experiences, and this effect is partly environmentally mediated.  It is our expectation that this project will result in identification of early, modifiable, environmental precursors to MCI. The ability to accurately target prevention and interventions to those most at risk is vital for public health as the nation’s population continues to age.