11/1/2017 5:13:22 PM
|written By : Staff Reporter|
Marital problems can cause heart problems for men. So says a new study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. The researchers studied a group of men in Britain over a long time and came to this conclusion.
In all, the researchers used 19 years’ worth of data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children in the Bristol area. Over almost two decades, the researchers looked at the men’s relationships with their wives and how prone they were to heart disease.
Cardiovascular risk was chosen as a measure because it is a common health issue and is relatively well understood. The researchers chose to study men because, in middle age, men have a greater cardiovascular risk than women.
The men under study answered questions about their marital relationship when their children were three years old, and again when the children reached the age of nine. Relationships were ranked as “consistently good,” “consistently bad,” “improving,” or “deteriorating.”
Besides the relationship data, the researchers also took note of health metrics -- blood pressure, resting heart rate, body mass index (BMI), blood fat profile, and fasting glucose levels.
These data were taken when the respondents’ children were 19 years old. The study was conducted over a long period to give cardiovascular risk factors enough time to develop in response to changes in marital relationships.
There was little change in the cardiovascular risk factors for men who reported consistently good or bad relationships, but there was a small effect for those whose relationship quality had changed. The differences were relatively slight, but they were significant.
Compared with men whose relationships were constantly good, those whose relationships were ranked as improving had lower levels of low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol, and a lower body weight (an average of 1 BMI unit).
There were also small improvements in cholesterol levels and diastolic blood pressure, which is a measure of cardiovascular risk. Conversely, individuals in worsening relationships were found to have significantly worse diastolic blood pressure. The researchers concluded: “Changes in the quality of a marital relationship appear to predict CVD (cardiovascular disease) risk, though consistently good or poor relationship groups were not very different.”
It is interesting that no differences were recorded in men whose relationships remained stable, be that good or bad. The researchers believe this could be due to “habituation” - or getting used to what you have - or differences in the way that some people perceive the quality of their relationship.
Of course, like any other study, this can’t be the last word on the subject. More research is needed. After all, this is an observational study, so it cannot prove cause and effect.