Researchers examined data on 620 married fathers to see what they
thought of their relationship when their child was almost 3 years
old and again when their child was 9. The study team also assessed
risk factors for heart disease like blood pressure, cholesterol,
weight and blood sugar.
“We found little change in cardiovascular risk factors for those
whose relationships were consistently good or bad,” said lead study
author Dr. Ian Bennett-Britton of the University of Bristol.
But changes in marriage were associated with shifts in heart health,
the study found.
“Improving relationships were linked with lower levels of low
density lipoprotein (LDL, bad cholesterol) and relatively lower
weight when compared to those in consistently good relationships,”
Bennett-Britton said by email. “Deteriorating relationships, on the
other hand, were linked with worsening blood pressure.”
All of the men in the study were part of the Avon Longitudinal Study
of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), which began in 1991.
The researchers assessed the fathers’ blood pressure, resting heart
rate, weight, cholesterol and blood sugar levels between 2011 and
2013 when their children were nearly 19 years old.
Changes in these risk factors can take time to develop and the
absolute shifts detected in the study were small, researchers note
in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.
After accounting for other factors that can influence the odds of
heart disease such as age, educational attainment, short stature and
household income, improving relationships were associated with
slightly lowered (by about 0.25 mmol/liter) levels of LDL
Relationship improvements were also linked to falling weight based
on a measure known as body-mass index (BMI), a ratio of weight to
height. Compared to those with a steadily good marriage, men with an
improving marriage had BMI scores that fell by an average 1.07 BMI
units, or the equivalent of about 10 pounds.
Deteriorating relationships, meanwhile, were tied to worsening
diastolic blood pressure, the “bottom number” that indicates how
much pressure the blood exerts on artery walls when the heart rests
between beats. Diastolic blood pressure was 2.74 millimeters of
mercury higher when men reported worsening marital quality.
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The study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove whether
or how marriage quality influences heart health.
Men were only about 36 years old at the start of the study, and it’s
possible that they were still too young by the end of the study for
researchers to see meaningful changes in risk factors for heart
disease. That’s because many of these risk factors take years to
Still, the results add to growing evidence suggesting that marriage
can influence health, said Brian Chin, a psychology researcher at
Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh who wasn’t involved in the
It’s possible that shifts in the amount or quality of sleep occur in
tandem with changes in marriage quality, and that this influences
risk factors for heart disease, Chin said by email.
Improvements or declines in marital relationships might also be
associated with changes in mental health or physical health,
especially if different eating, exercising, smoking or drinking
habits accompany these shifts.
“It’s interesting that improvements or deteriorations in marital
quality are associated with changes in cardiovascular disease risk
factors and surprising that consistently good or bad quality
marriages were mostly unassociated,” Chin said.
“This seems to be suggesting that it’s something about the
transition from having a good marriage that you feel provides you
with support, care and warmth to a bad marriage marked by the
absence of affection or appreciation that’s particularly relevant
for cardiovascular disease risk,” Chin added.
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/2xzSTbi Journal of Epidemiology & Community
Health, online October 9, 2017.
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