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Heartache and women?

Bad Marriages Harder on Women's Health

More likely than mates to show signs of metabolic syndrome in strained unions, study finds
By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, March 5 (HealthDay News) -- The cardiovascular damage wrought by an unhappy marriage may be greater for women than men, a new study shows.

While both men and women in "strained" unions, those marked by arguing and being angry, were more likely to feel depressed than happier partners, the women in the contentious relationships were more likely to develop high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar and other markers of what's known as "metabolic syndrome," said study author Nancy Henry, a doctoral candidate in clinical healthy psychology at the University of Utah.

Metabolic syndrome is known to boost the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

While many studies have linked poor marriages with poor health, Henry said she believes her is the first to tie in depression as a possible route through which the strain boosts the risk of metabolic syndrome. "The negativity triggers the depression, which is associated with the metabolic syndrome," said Henry. This was found true, she said, only for the women in her study.

For the study, she interviewed 276 couples, median age 54, by questionnaires, asking about positive aspects of marriage quality such as mutual support and sharing, and negative aspects such as arguing, feelings of hostility and disagreeing over important issues such as kids, sex, money and in-laws. She asked about depressive symptoms.

Couples were married, on average, 27.5 years, most in their original marriage.

"For the most part, you could say, these were happily married couples," Henry said. About 20 percent of the men and 12 percent of the women in the study had metabolic syndrome (diagnosed when three of the five risk factors were present).

The men were as likely as the women to become depressed with marital strain, but the link between negativity, depression and metabolic syndrome only applied to women, she said. The depression in women accounted for the metabolic syndrome, she said.

Exactly why isn't known, but Henry speculated that women may take the negativity more to heart and ruminate about it more than men.

Henry can't say specifically how much risk of metabolic syndrome is attributed to the negativity. Earlier research has linked negativity in marriage with an increased risk of heart disease for both men and women.

She was expected to present her findings Thursday at the American Psychosomatic Society annual meeting, in Chicago.

Another researcher in the field called the findings interesting, especially the new focus on depression as a possible mechanism through which the strain influences the metabolic syndrome.

"The study raises the importance of increasing our understanding of how depression influences biological processes that result in metabolic syndrome -- and why these processes might be stronger for women than men," said Debra Umberson, a professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin.

The findings, Umberson said, fit in with her research finding a strong effect of marital strain on partners' overall health. But the gender difference finding differs from her research. "Basically, we find that marital strain undermines the health of men and women," she said, adding that perhaps the men in Henry's study had their health influenced in a different way.

More research is needed, Henry said, to figure out how the pieces fit together.

Meanwhile, Umberson said: "Choose your partner carefully. A strained marriage is bad for your health." If it's already strained, she said, focus on reducing conflict.

More information

To learn about improving a marriage, visit the American Psychological Association.

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10 Responses
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547836 tn?1302832832
ahahahahhah!!!  i could almost see a gender debate coming from Jm and Port's comments :)
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Avatar universal
thanks port for the heads up about rita, I saw her mood just now,  but not the posts, so thanks!
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Avatar universal
Geez, you're not around enough!

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96938 tn?1189799858
This is one poorly written piece.

"Bad Marriages Harder on Women's Health More likely than mates to show signs of metabolic syndrome in strained unions, study finds "

Yet,  "About 20 percent of the men and 12 percent of the women in the study had metabolic syndrome (diagnosed when three of the five risk factors were present). "

Apparently, the wives had control over the questionaires, not the husbands.  Probably perpetuating the line of thought "the difference between major and minor surgegy is that if it's your surgery it's minor and if it's my surgery it's major'
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Avatar universal
Note the female doctoral student said so but the female professor said otherwise.

I myself agree with the prof but then I even find men more sensitive than women!
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Avatar universal
Note that the study was conceived and conducted by a woman :)
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547836 tn?1302832832
wow, i think it can fluctuate depending on circumstances, but my parents are married more than 20 years already :)
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Avatar universal
Hubby and I are on an even playing field now when it comes to arguing, feelings of hostility and disagreeing over important issues.  Neither one of us can remember what the heck it was about in the first place so we just give up, smile and shake our heads. Riba has a purpose in all of this besides carrying the ball for Peg.  
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Avatar universal
Take a peek on the other side - Rita posted just a little while ago!!!
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Avatar universal
this is interesting read. Thanks for sharing Port!       Gee I thought my hubby made me feel better! LOL Maybe I feel so yucky  cause of him?  ::>>)))

Naw he is a good guy!  

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