We’ve all heard the expression of dying of a broken heart. Now new research suggests that a bad marriage might actually lead to heart disease. Translation? Older couples in a suffering marriage appear to be at higher risk for cardiovascular disease.
The findings stem from a large-scale study that focused on over a thousand people aged 57 to 85. After sorting through five years worth of data, researchers found a number of striking findings related to heart health and marriage.
For starters, the relationship between heart disease risk and marriage quality seems to become stronger as we age. Researchers say that age-related declines in immune function likely play a part. But perhaps the most significant finding was that marital quality appears to affect women’s heart health more then men’s.
“Marriage counseling is focused largely on younger couples,” lead investigator Hui Liu, a Michigan State University sociologist, said in a statement. “But these results show that marital quality is just as important at older ages, even when the couple has been married for 40 or 50 years.”
Another noteworthy finding was that cardiovascular disease seems to affect marriage quality for female spouses, but not for men.
This line of research isn’t the first to draw an association between stressful relationships and overall health. A recent Danish study also found that constant arguing with family and friends might make people two to three times more likely to die during middle age. During the course of an 11-year period, researchers from the University of Copenhagen found that consistent demands and worries put on people by their family and friends represented a real health risk.
Causes of death ranged from cancer, heart disease, liver disease, accidents and suicide.
It isn’t surprising that another 2014 study found that many people report feeling more stressed at home than at work.