WALTHAM, Mass. -- Spouses in a poor marriage are more likely to bestressed during the workday, a finding that could mean a greaterlikelihood of strokes and heart disease for both husband and wife,according to researchers at Brandeis University and University Collegein London.
In a study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, theresearchers also found that a bad marriage impacts stress levels of menand women equally, debunking the myth that a poor relationship affectsthe wife more than the husband.
The study results indicate that in addition to the carryover ofwork stress into domestic life that has been evident for many years,there are also influences of domestic strain on biological functionover the working day and evening.
"What is happening is that marital problems are spilling intothe workplace," said study co-author Rosalind Barnett, a seniorscientist at the Women's Studies Research Center at Brandeis andexecutive director of its Community, Families & Work Program. "Andif these tensions persist over time, there could be serious healthproblems."
Barnett was joined in the research by co-authors AndrewSteptoe, the British Heart Foundation Professor of Psychology atUniversity College, and Karen Gareis, the program director of theCommunity, Families & Work Program at Brandeis.
In a study of 105 middle-age civil service workers in theLondon area, the researchers found that participants with more maritalconcerns reported greater stress and exhibited elevated diastolic andsystolic blood pressure readings during the workday. The results werethe same for men and women.
"It's generally assumed that primary relationships are morecritical to a women's psychological well-being than men's, but this isnot the case," Barnett said. "When there is marital concern, men andwomen are equally affected."
The researchers pointed to the alarming link between stress andlong-term health problems. Stress is linked to six of the leadingcauses of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents,cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide.
"The results add to the evidence that psychological factorsinfluence biological functions in everyday life, and suggest that poormarital relationships are related to neuroendocrine and cardiovascularactivation as well as to adverse psychological outcomes," the studyconcluded.
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