Tension. Stress. Anger. Anxiety. These are what you get in a relationship gone bad. Unfortunately, the emotional distress that comes with a strained relationship can translate into physiological problems that in turn lead to conditions like high blood pressure, heart problems, and obesity.
These health problems have been reported for both men and women although the latter seems to be more susceptible to health issues caused by bad relationships, according to a study by researchers at the University of Utah.
For the study, [the researchers] recruited 276 couples married an average of two decades, in which men and women were between 40 and 70 years old. Participants filled out questionnaires that covered positives, such as emotional warmth and mutual support; and areas of tension, such as frequency of arguments and extent of disagreements over issues like sex, kids, and money. (Source: WebMD).
The participants were also monitored for blood chemistry, blood pressure and waist circumference.
The study showed that the health effects of a discordant relationship on women’s health include:
- Depressive symptoms, more likely to be reported by women.
- Metabolic syndrome symptoms (which would include increased blood sugar levels, increased levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides) more likely to be reported by women.
- Weight gain and increased waist circumference, also more likely to be reported by women.
- Depressive symptoms reported by men not related to metabolic syndrome.
This is not the first study to explore the effect of relationships on health outcomes.
A large body of research shows that divorce is associated with coronary calcification in both men and women. However, the current study clearly indicates that the relationship between emotional distress caused by a bad relationship and cardiovascular health is stronger in men than women.
In another study, researchers found out that the quality of a marriage relationship can have an influence on recovery rates of women with breast cancer.
Corollary to this, another study on stroke victims and their spouses showed that, depending on coping skills, caregiving can cause depression and put a strain on relationships.
But why are women more susceptible? According to the researchers:
“Women seem to be more relationship oriented. We know by research that women tend to base their self-concept on relationships, how they are doing, how things are going for them. And we think that’s the reason we’ve shown that negative relationship issues seem to take a greater toll on women emotionally and physically.”