Even though a bad relationship can’t actually leave you with a broken heart, a bad marriage could leave you with a damaged one. Researchers from Michigan State University studied effect of marital quality on cardiovascular health, and found that a good marriage is good for your heart.
This new study, published in The Journal of Health and Social Behavior, found a correlation between marriage quality and cardiovascular health. Though other studies have attempted to connect the two, this is the first large-scale population-representative study confirming the link. Researchers studied almost 1200 participants, ages 57-85 at the beginning of the study, over the course of five years as part of the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project. Participants were asked to answer questions about their cardiovascular health, which was measured as hypertension, rapid heart rate, and general cardiovascular events. They were also asked questions about their relationships, including how close they felt to their spouses and how demanding their spouse was.
The researchers found that while positive marital quality correlates with a healthy heart, an unhealthy relationship has a stronger effect on heart health. This means that a healthy marriage is less beneficial to cardiovascular health than an unhealthy relationship is detrimental. These connections also strengthen with time. For example, as couples get older, the stress associated with a bad marriage becomes more detrimental to heart health. Furthermore, the effect of martial quality on heart health is more pronounced in women, and lead researcher Hui Liu suggests that this could be because women are more likely to internalized negative feelings.
So what does this all mean? Even though the study was conducted with participants over the age of 50, it still shows us how important good, nurturing relationships are to our overall health. Though many of us aren’t yet married or affected by heart problems, this study helps us see the very real connection between emotional health and physical health. These findings can be a reminder that we should surround ourselves with good friends and significant others, and hopefully by the time we are 50 our hearts will thanks us for it.