Can Your Marriage Make You Sick?
A bad marriage may be bad for your health--if you're a woman, according to new research out today.
Nancy Henry of the University of Utah and her colleagues studied 276 couples who had been married an average of 20 years.The couples filled out questionnaires assessing positive aspects of their marriage, such as mutual support, emotional warmth, friendliness and confiding in each other, as well as negative aspects, such as arguments, feelings of hostility and how often they disagreed over topics such as children, sex, money and in-laws. The couples were also tested for signs of depression, and went to a clinic to measure their weight, cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar and other symptoms of "metabolic syndrome," which increases the risk for diabetes and heart disease.
Both men and women who reported more marital strain were more likely to have signs of depression, Henry reports today at the American Psychosomatic Society's annual meeting in Chicago. But only the women also were more likely to have metabolic syndrome symptoms. In fact, the effect of depression from marital strain was about the same as the effect of being sedentary versus moderately active, the researchers calculated.
It's unclear why this was the case, but previous research has indicated that women are more sensitive to the effects of relationship problems than men, and there's good evidence that stress can increase the risk for many of the factors that cause the metabolic syndrome.
While the study needs to be followed up by more research to really establish the link, the researchers say women in bad marriages should both exercise more and take other steps to try to counter those effects, and figure out if there's a way to improve their marriages--both to make their daily lives more pleasant and possibly improve their health.
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