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Being in a Bad Marriage Can Literally Break Your Heart

Woman's Day logo Woman's Day 11/22/2014 Megan Friedman


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The old saying “happy wife, happy life,” might finally be proven true. According to a new study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, an unhappy marriage is strongly linked to bad heart health, especially among women.  

Researchers at Michigan State University analyzed five years of data from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project, a long-term study of adults ranging from age 57 to 85 conducted by the University of Chicago. In this study, participants were asked questions about the quality of their marriages. They also took lab tests to check their blood pressure and protein levels, and reported any incidents like heart attacks or strokes. 

After crunching the numbers, the researchers found that being in a marriage in which your spouse criticizes you constantly or is demanding of you has a sizable effect on your heart health. This effect gets stronger the longer you stay married. And unfortunately, being in a happy marriage doesn’t have as much of an effect in the other direction.

The effects of a bad marriage on your ticker are far worse for women than they are for men. According to lead author Hui Liu, this may be because women tend to internalize their negative feelings, which then can lead to depression and poor overall health. And to make matters worse, heart disease leads to lower marital quality for women, but not for men.  “In this way, a wife’s poor health may affect how she assesses her marital quality, but a husband’s poor health doesn’t hurt his view of marriage,” Liu said in a press release. 

The study’s authors say their research proves a need for marriage counseling at all stages of life. “Marital quality is just as important at older ages, even when the couple has been married 40 or 50 years,” Liu said.

Photo: Getty Images

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