Couples, take note! Unhappy marital interaction is linked to thicker carotid arteries and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, a new study has found.
“Growing evidence suggests that the quality and patterns of one’s social relationships may be linked with a variety of health outcomes, including heart disease,” said Thomas Kamarck, from the University of Pittsburgh Kenneth P Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.
The study correlates unhappy marital interaction with thicker carotid arteries and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
“The contribution of this study is in showing that these sorts of links may be observed even during the earliest stages of plaque development [in the carotid artery],” Kamarck said.
“And that these observations may be rooted not just in the way that we evaluate our relationships in general but in the quality of specific social interactions with our partners as they unfold during our daily lives,” said Kamarck.
The findings by Nataria Joseph, the lead author of the paper, indicate that those with “marital interactions light on the positive may have an 8.5 per cent greater risk of suffering heart attack or stroke than those with a surfeit of good feelings.”
“These findings may have wider implications. It’s another bit of support for the thought that marital or serious romantic relationships play a significant role in overall health. Biological, psychological, and social processes all interact to determine physical health,” Joseph, who is now at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, said.
The study included 281 healthy, employed, middle-aged adults who were married or living with a partner in a marital-like relationship.
Their interactions were monitored hourly over the course of four days, with the partners rating their interactions as positive or negative.
Carotid artery thickness was also measured. Those partners reporting more negative interactions were found to have thicker carotids.
The study was published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.