Stressful Marriage Leads to Heart Problems for Wives

Mar 05, 2009
Marital disagreements put strain on the heart of women, not men, a new study says.
Women living in unhappy marriage are more likely to experience depression and have symptoms of metabolic syndrome, which increases their risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

The study conducted at University of Utah revealed that though men also feel depressed in strained relationships, they do not face the risk of heart disease due to metabolic syndrome.

Conflicts in marriage often lead to depression for wives and husbands, which is a risk factor for metabolic syndrome characterized by high blood pressure, abdominal fat gain, increased levels of blood sugar and triglycerides and decreased level of good cholesterol and this in its turn increases the risk of heart disease.

Nancy Henry, a doctoral student in psychology and Tim Smith, a psychology professor and the leading authors of the study asked 276 couples aged between 40 and 70 and married for around 20 years to answer the questionnaire to determine their level of positive and negative aspects of their marriages, including emotional support, feelings of anger, and extent of conflicts. The researchers also studied volunteers' health conditions, including symptoms of depression and metabolic syndrome, such as waist circumference, hypertension,, the levels of "good" cholesterol, insulin and triglycerides.

The results of the study showed that women who experienced more tension in marriage, were more likely to suffer from depression that was the cause of metabolic syndrome. Men who were in strained relationships with their wives also had the symptoms of depression but that did not influence their risks of developing metabolic syndrome.

Why does bad marriage seems to affects woman's health more than men's physical and mental health? Scientists explain that the difference lies in men's and women's responses to emotions. Marital conflicts cause a number of physical changes in the body, often leading to heart problem.

The key to better health is the way you deal with negative emotions that cause psychological stress. Men tend to withdraw from marital conflicts and thus significantly decrease the level of psychological arousal and a result they won't suffer from such negative health consequences. On the other hand, women seem to be more involved in marital conflicts, experiencing a wide range of negative emotions, being especially frustrated when their husbands simply avoid the conflict, which leads to poorer physical condition.