By Margarita Nahapetyan
Stressful marriage turns out to increase only women's risk of heart problems, a new study claims. According to experts it is women, and not men, that are the ones to suffer from increased levels of blood pressure, obesity and cholesterol, when a relationship gets strained.
For a study, the researchers from the University of Utah, invited around 300 married couples with the ages between 40 and 70 years. The participants had been married for an average of twenty years. In order to find out positive and negative sides of each relationship, the experts asked all the couples to fill in appropriate questionnaires. The questions included such aspects of relationship as emotional and mutual support, the frequency of arguments and fights, as well as to what extent the couples disagreed over the intimate issues, their kids, and finances.
In addition, every woman and man had to undergo a medical examination, so the experts were able to measure and monitor their levels of blood pressure as well as waist circumference. The participants took glucose and cholesterol tests in order to determine whether they experienced metabolic syndrome, also known as insulin resistance syndrome. Symptoms such as stress and depression were also taken into consideration.
The results showed that those women who reported more strain in the relationship, were more likely to show symptoms of depression. They also had more metabolic syndrome symptoms, which lead to a higher risk of heart related problems, stroke and diabetes. Besides the development of an extra belly fat and increased blood pressure, metabolic syndrome is also characterized by symptoms such as elevated triglycerides, high blood sugar, and low levels of HDL "good" cholesterol. In other words, negative moments in marital life are linked to stress and depression, which in their turn, trigger an increased risk of heart problems due to metabolic syndrome.
However, there was one very interesting discovery made: although men in strained and unhappy marriages also reported to feel depressed, they did not show any increased risk of physiological damage to their health. The authors wrote that differences in gender that have been found are very essential because most of lethal outcomes both in women and men occur due to heart disease. The new findings give the experts a better opportunity to learn a lot more about the relationship between heart related problems and emotional distress.
When asked as to why bad marriages have worse impact on women's health compared to men, the scientists said that it might be due to their sensitivity and more responsiveness to problems in a relationship. According to experts, women are more relationship oriented, than men are, and are the ones who notice much faster any negative changes and troubles when they occur. Women take every problematic issues closer to heart than their husbands do, and work much harder than their partners in order to regulate and solve them.
The researchers recommend that couples should consider improving the quality of intimate relationships, which they think might play a positive role in regulation of many conflicts and decrease stressful situations, especially in women. Also, they note that intimacy helps women to achieve the state of emotional and physical well-being. This positive dimension of mental health in which every person realizes his or her own potential, can help couples deal with the hardships of life and work productively in order to overcome them.
The study is being presented at a meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society in Chicago.