An unhappy marriage can break your heart. Apparently, it is not just in the metaphorical sense, but in the literal sense too!
The study was conducted by Hui Liu of Michigan State University and co-researcher Linda Waite, a sociology professor at the University of Chicago, and published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. Both researchers analyzed data from more than 1,000 married men and women who were participants in the National Social Life, Healthy and Aging Project. The participants’ age ranged between 57 and 85 years old at the start of the project.
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The participants were asked to complete surveys about the state of their marriages and also provide information regarding their cardiovascular health, including strokes, heart attacks, and high blood pressure.
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And the results showed that the negative effects of a bad marriage became stronger with age. The more years the couple weathered a bad marriage together, the more negative its effects on their heart health. But the researchers also found an interesting result from the study – women were more likely than men to endure heart problems. They opined that this could be a result of internalization of negative emotions and feelings by women.
It may be that women are more likely to internalize their emotions and feelings about marital strain and thus are more likely to feel depressed than are men
Stress resulting from marital problems or dissatisfaction also has a strong effect on the heart, because the older people get the more their immune systems weaken. Hui also noted that a bad marriage in which couples are overly critical or demanding, had a bigger effect on heart health than a happy marriage, in which spouses were supportive of each other.
The research said, “In other words, a bad marriage is more harmful to your heart health than a good marriage is beneficial.”
“Marriage counseling is focused largely on younger couples. But these results show that marital quality is just as important at older ages, even when the couple has been married 40 or 50 years,” said Hui in a statement.
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Hui added, “It’s not like you have contact with your spouse and the next day you have heart disease.” God forbid if it should happen that instantaneously! Since the sample size was relatively small, the study has limitations. Also, the data is self-reported and the researchers said that future studies should have a longer follow-up period. “It really takes time. That may explain why it’s stronger for older people. Your body will remember the effect.”
So, if somebody says that they are broken-hearted due to a bad marriage, then we might want to follow it up with a question – metaphorical or literal? What say?
Featured image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License