An unhappy marriage could literally be heart-breaking

New research looking into cardiovascular health has suggested that a bad marriage could have a significant impact on a person’s heart in later life.

A team of researchers at Michigan State University and the University of Chicago found that couples who had unhappy marriage had a significantly higher risk of heart disease than those in a happy marriage.

The team analysed data from 1,200 married men and women aged between 57 and 85-years-old who participated in the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project over a five year period.

During the study the participants were asked about their marriage and their cardiovascular health, such as whether they had suffered heart disease, heart attacks or strokes.

Professors Hui Lui and Linda Waite examined the data collected and compared the relationship between marital quality and heart disease to see if there were any variants between age and gender.

Prof Lui said negative marital quality, such as husbands and wives being overly critical or demanding, had a bigger effect on heart health than positive marital quality, such as spouses being supportive.

“In other words,” the research said, “a bad marriage is more harmful to your heart health than a good marriage is beneficial.”

This effect, the study says, becomes even greater the longer people live. The research found that the stress of a bad marriage stimulated more, and more intense, cardiovascular responses, because of the increasing frailty and declining immune function that develops as people get older.

Prof Lui added that marriage quality had a more significant impact on the health of women.

She said that marriage counselling – aimed mainly at young couples – should remain important no matter what the couple’s age.