Men are at greater risk of a heart attack if their marriage is going downhill – but women are not affected, a study found.
British researchers said the ups and downs of marital life were strongly linked to rises and falls in men’s blood pressure, cholesterol and weight – each major drivers of heart attacks and strokes.
Their study – tracking 620 married fathers for 16 years – found men’s health improved as their marital relations did.
And when relationships were stable – consistently bad or good – there was no impact on their health.
But when married life was deteriorating, their health measurements also got worse.
The researchers, from Bristol and Glasgow universities, compared their results to an ongoing study of British women, which has found no link between marital happiness and female cardiovascular health.
They believe this is because men are reliant on wives, but women have larger social networks and other ways of coping.
The scientists, writing in the BMJ Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, even suggested men in turbulent relationships should get divorced for the sake of their health. They said: ‘Marriage counselling for couples with deteriorating relationships may have added benefits in terms of physical health over and above psychological well-being, though in some cases ending the relationship may be the best outcome.’
For the study, which began in 1991, fathers completed a questionnaire on the quality of their relationship first when their child was nearly three and again at the age of nine.
They then assessed blood pressure, resting heart rate, weight, blood fat and blood sugar levels between 2011 and 2013 when their child was nearly 19, on the basis that it would take some time for changes in cardiovascular risk factors to be evident after corresponding changes to relationships.
The scientists found improving relationships were associated with lower levels of cholesterol, blood pressure and weight when compared with consistently good relationships.
And deteriorating relationships were linked to higher blood pressure.
The findings echo those of Japanese experts, who last year found married men were less likely than single men to suffer metabolic syndrome – a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity which damages the blood vessels. They also found the same did not apply to women.
© Daily Mail