A new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine links marital problems with an increased risk of developing heart disease.
Previous research has shown that being single creates more of a risk for bad health than being married. For men especially being married was associated with better health.
This new study from the University College London examined over 9000 civil servants in England and assessed their relationships between 1985 and 1990. They followed up about 12 years later and found an increased risk of developing heart disease among those with marital troubles.
Those that had negative emotions or were depressed explained some of the effect but even after correcting for this, there was still a link between bad relationships and increased risk of coronary disease.
It seems that being married leads to better health but the quality of those relationships is also important. The effect was fairly weak and so further studies need to be done to understand what underlies this effect. Previous studies have associated high stress and high levels of stress hormones with poorer health. Future studies should examine stress as a possible underlying cause.
Good diet, exercise and healthy lifestyle are strongly protective for risk of heart disease and are the first line of defence. This results of this study are not a signal to end a relationship or engage in expensive therapy to reduce the risk of coronary disease.