Husbands with stressed wives are more likely to have increased blood pressure, a new study suggests.
While studies have shown that stress and negative marital quality can influence mortality and blood pressure, there has not been research that discussed how it might affect married couples over time, researchers said.
Using systolic blood pressure as a gauge, the new study assessed whether an individual’s blood pressure is influenced by their own as well as their partner’s reports of chronic stress and whether there are gender differences in these patterns.
The findings support previous research that asserts stress and relationship quality have both direct and moderating effects on the cardiovascular system.
The study also indicates that it is important to consider the couple as a whole rather than the individual when examining marriage and health.
The study found that husbands had increased blood pressure when wives reported greater stress, and this link was exacerbated by negative spousal relationship quality.
Specifically looking at the effects of negative relationship quality, researchers said that effects were not recognised when examining individuals but were found when examining interactions between both members of the couple.
“We were particularly excited about these findings because they show that the effects of stress and negative relationship quality are truly dyadic in nature,” said lead author Kira S Birditt from the University of Michigan.
“An individuals’ physiology is closely linked with not only his or her own experiences but the experiences and perceptions of their spouses.
“We were particularly fascinated that husbands were more sensitive to wives’ stress than the reverse especially given all of the work indicating that wives are more affected by the marital tie.
“We speculate that this finding may result from husbands greater reliance on wives for support which may not be provided when wives are more stressed,” Birditt said.