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Hypertension/High Blood Pressure Health Center

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Marital Support Eases Job's Blood Pressure Toll

A Supportive Spouse May Reduce Blood Pressure That Was Raised by Job Strain

WebMD Health News

Sept. 26, 2005 -- The negative affect of job strain on your blood pressure may be eased if you have a supportive spouse at home.

A new study shows job strain can significantly increase blood pressure among workers over time. But having strong martial support may counteract those negative effects by reducing workers' blood pressure a similar amount.

Researchers say the results suggest that people who have job strain as well as a strained marriage should see their doctor for a blood pressure check.

Job and Marital Strain a Bad Combo

In the study, researchers monitored the blood pressure of 216 men and women over the course of a year. All of the participants lived at home with a "significant other" and were employed; none was currently using medication to treat high blood pressure.

The participants' blood pressure was measured at the start of the study and one year later with a monitor that measured blood pressure continuously for 24 hours. They also answered a questionnaire to measure marital cohesion and job strain at work.

"The amount of support given at home in the relationship is a major definition of marital cohesion," says researcher Sheldon Tobe, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, in a news release. "Did the partners talk about their daily activities? Did one partner pay attention and sympathize when the significant other had a stressful day? Did the partners spend time together?"

Job strain was defined as having high demands at work with little control.

"An example might be an operating room nurse who has high job demand, meeting physical and mental demands and low latitude for making personal decisions while on the job such as going for a lunch break," says Tobe.

Marital Support Takes the Pressure Off

Researchers found job strain and lack of support from a spouse was associated with an increase of 2.8 points of systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) over one year. But people with high job strain at work and high martial support at home experienced a decrease of 2.5 points of systolic blood pressure during the same period.

Tobe says doctors may not normally ask their patients about job strain or marital support, but these results show that stress at work and at home can have a significant impact on people's health.

The findings were presented this week at the American Heart Association's High Blood Pressure Research Meeting, in Washington, D.C.

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