Researchers led by Professor Thomas Kamarck from the University of Pittsburgh have found that being in an unhappy marriage or social relationship was linked with increased risk of health problems, including cardiovascular disease.
Nataria Joseph, who recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship under Kamarck, and is the lead author of the paper, said that the findings may have wider implications. It's another bit of support for the thought that marital or serious romantic relationships play a significant role in overall health. Biological, psychological, and social processes all interact to determine physical health.
The findings indicate that those with marital interactions light on the positive may have an 8.5 percent greater risk of suffering heart attack or stroke than those with a surfeit of good feelings.
The study included 281 healthy, employed, middle-aged adults who were married or living with a partner in a marital-like relationship. Their interactions were monitored hourly over the course of four days, with the partners rating their interactions as positive or negative, and carotid artery thickness was also measured.
Those partners reporting more negative interactions were found to have thicker carotids. Joseph said that these associations could not be accounted for by other behavioral or biological risk factors and were also independent of marital interaction frequency, nonmarital social interaction, or personality factors.
It shows that health care providers should look at relationships as a point of assessment. They are likely to promote health or place health at risk, she added.
The study is published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.