This probably isn’t the first time you’ve heard marital status impacts your heart health. Previous studies have shown that men who are married are less likely to develop heart disease compared to men who are single, divorced or widowed. However, new studies suggest there may be more to the story than this.
If these factors regarding the quality of marriage have any effect on heart health, it is important to study the relationship of health compared to quality of the marriage overtime. A study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health uses the approach of longevity and quality of a marriage to understand how both affect heart health.
The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPC) conducted this study and focused on the link between relationship quality over time and cardiovascular risk in married men.
ALSPC produced a questionnaire for fathers when their children were aged 3 then again at age 9. They also took a range of health metrics when the child turned 19, giving cardiovascular risk factors time to develop in response to changes in relationship quality.
The relationships were ranked as “consistently good,” “consistently bad,” “improving,” or “deteriorating.”
The result indicated no difference in the measurement of cardiovascular disease (CVD) progression in men between relationships that were continuously good and those that were continuously poor. The team believes this might be due to a “habitual” state- as in getting use to a common pattern- or differences in the way that some people perceive the quality of their relationship.
On the other hand, there were minor but significant differences between the improving and deteriorating relationships. The men in relationships that were ranked as improving over time had lower levels of low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol, and a lower body weight compared the consistently good relationships. Small improvements in cholesterol levels and diastolic blood pressure were also found, which is a measure of cardiovascular risk. Conversely, males in the relationships that were labeled deteriorating were found to have significantly worse diastolic blood pressure. In other words, how your relationship progressed, either positively or negatively, was the biggest judge of heart health.
In the end, it isn’t about where your relationship is but where it is going. Improving your relationship overtime also means you are simultaneously improving your heart health. We call that a win-win.