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Marriage Makes the Heart Grow Healthier?

Married Persons Less Likely to Have High Blood Pressure

WebMD Health News

May 17, 2004 -- Marriage may not only make your heart happier, it may also make it healthier.

A new study shows that married persons are less likely to have high blood pressure than those who are divorced, widowed, or separated from their spouses.

Researchers say nonmarried adults may face a higher risk of hypertension because of low social support, social isolation, and reduced economic resources. Together, those factors may reduce their awareness of the problem as well as make it harder to get proper medical care or stick with a treatment regimen.

Marriage Reduces Blood Pressure Risks

For the study, researchers analyzed information from the National Health Interview Survey, which included information from more than 30,000 adults.

After adjusting the data for age, race/ethnicity, smoking status, alcohol use, and other risk factors for high blood pressure, researchers found people who were widowed, divorced, or separated were more likely to have problems controlling their blood pressure than married persons, including those whose spouses did not live with them.

People who were separated were the most likely to report high blood pressure and married people with spouses who did not live in the household had the lowest rates of high blood pressure.

Specifically, the study found rates of high blood pressure among the different groups were:

  • Married and living with spouse: 8.5%
  • Married and spouse did not at home: 4%
  • Widowed: 12.8%
  • Divorced: 13.3%
  • Separated: 14%

Researchers say the marital status differences remained significant after controlling for all other risk factors associated with high blood pressure except socioeconomic status.

"These results highlight the importance of being widowed, divorced, or separated and associated decreased economic resources as risk factors for hypertension impairment," writes researcher Stephen Morewitz, PhD, of Samuel Merritt College in Oakland, Calif.

The results of the study were presented this week at the American Heart Association's 5th annual Scientific Forum on Quality of Care and Outcomes Research in Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke, in Washington.

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