Bad Marriage, Bad Heart?
Negative Relationships Boost Heart Disease Risk by 34%, Study Shows
WebMD News Archive
A Closer Look continued...
During the follow-up period of about 12 years, heart disease was reported by
589 men and women of the 8,499 respondents who finished the questionnaires.
None of the 8,499 respondents had any history of heart disease at the start of
Those who had high negativity in their marriage or close friendship -- such
as saying that talking to the partner or friend about problems made things seem
worse -- were 34% more likely to have a heart problem compared with those with
more positive interactions and low level of negativity. The increased risk
dropped to 25% after taking into account other variables that could contribute
to heart disease such as depression.
De Vogli didn't find an association between the level of practical support
or emotional support and heart disease risk.
What's behind the bad marriage -- bad heart link? People may mentally
"replay" the negative interactions, De Vogli and other researchers
suspect. "It can activate emotional responses, including depression or
hostility," he says, in turn boosting heart disease risk. De Vogli
found the association held for both men and women and for those in higher and
lower social positions. More likely to have negative relationships, he did
find, were those in lower-grade jobs. Negative close relationships were less
likely in people who were never married.
"It's an intriguing finding," says Robert Allan, PHD, a clinical
assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry at New York-Presbyterian
Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. He reviewed the study for WebMD.
"In this study, they controlled for many variables [that could
contribute to heart problems], including age, sex, marital status, high blood
pressure, and diabetes," says Allan, an expert in the field of anger
management with a specialty in coronary risk reduction.
Overall, he says, the link De Vogli's team found between negative
relationships and heart disease is not "huge." Still, "this is one
study that adds to a significant database suggesting that negative effect is
bad for both quality of life and for the heart."
It's a wake-up call to work on improving relationships as one way to improve
cardiac health, says Allan.