How the vagaries of marriage affect men

Assessing relationships to predict CVD risk
couple conflict

A man’s heart health appears to be linked to the highs and lows of marital life rather than the state of the relationship, say UK researchers.

Results from a prospective cohort study of 620 men show little change in cardiovascular risk factors for those whose relationships with their partners are consistently good or bad.

But a more distinct pattern emerges for those whose relationship quality fluctuates.

Specifically, the researchers have found that the ups and downs of marriage are strongly linked to rises and falls in men's blood pressure, cholesterol and weight, although in absolute terms these are small.

“Changes in the quality of a marital relationship appear to predict CVD risk, though consistently good or poor relationship groups were not very different,” they write in the Journal of Epidemiology.

Improving relationships are associated with lower levels of LDL (0.25mmol/L) and relatively lower weight when compared with consistently good relationships. 

And they are more weakly associated with improved total cholesterol (0.24mmol/L lower) and improved diastolic blood pressure (2.24mmHg lower).

Deteriorating relationships, on the other hand, are associated with worsening diastolic blood pressure (2.274mmHg higher).

The researchers suggest that the lack of change in risk factors among men whose relationships are consistently good or bad could be down to some degree of habituation.

“Assuming a causal association, then marriage counselling for couples with deteriorating relationships may have added benefits in terms of physical health over and above psychological wellbeing, though in some cases ending the relationship may be the best outcome.”

You can access the study here.