How bad marriage can damage your health -Study
Marriage is not only walking down the aisle or signing a marriage licence but it’s what spouses do for each other throughout the marriage that determines that is beneficial for health .
We’ve long heard about the benefits of a good marriage – lower cholesterol, better heart health and increased longevity, to name but a few.
But what about a bad marriage? Does it have a negative impact on a person’s health in the same way a good marriage has a positive impact?
The answer, according to researchers at the universities of Nevada and Michigan, is an unequivocal yes. A bad marriage can seriously damage your health, they claim – and men are most at risk.
The researchers at the universities of Nevada and Michigan monitored 373 heterosexual couples to investigate whether disagreeing about multiple topics – such as children, money, in-laws and leisure activities – had negative health implications.
“We followed married couples over the first 16 years of marriage and compared the subjective health of wives and husbands who reported a greater number of conflict topics to those who reported fewer,” said Rosie Shrout, who presented the preliminary results at the International Association for Relationship Research conference in Colorado.
The researchers found that marital conflict negatively affected health for both husbands and wives, although there was a greater impact of conflict on men than women. Couples who agreed with each other more experienced health benefits early on in their relationships, but this protective effect wore off in the later years of marriage.
The health ratings were calculated by asking spouses to answer questions about their health, including whether their health interfered with their work, if they were healthy enough to do the things they wanted to do, if they were having trouble sleeping, if they were bothered by nervousness and feeling fidgety, and whether they were troubled by headaches.
Conflict in a relationship can lead to damaging responses in the body such as inflammation, changes in appetite and increased release of stress hormones, all of which can affect numerous aspects of health ranging from heart function to the immune system, previous research has found.
“Conflict can be particularly damaging for health if spouses are hostile or defensive during disagreements or if they are arguing about the same topic over and over again without any resolution,” said Shrout.
Veronica Lamarche, a professor of social psychology at the University of Essex who was not involved in the study, warned that these bodily responses to relationship conflict can cause long-term damage.
“There’s quite a bit of research linking relationship conflict to different types of physiological responses, such as increased release of stress hormones, inflammation, changes in appetite regulation, and immune functioning,” she said.
“It isn’t the case that a single fight in a relationship will irreparably harm your health, but frequent fighting over many years will take a toll – it’s important to work on communicating with each other effectively to help minimise conflict.”