A team of researchers has directly linked mortality and blood pressure to relationship quality.
While other 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.
Using systolic blood pressure as a gauge, Oxford University researchers 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.
This article addresses several questions like does chronic stress predicts blood pressure? Does the association between chronic stress and blood pressure vary between husbands and wives? Does negative relationship quality predict blood pressure? Does the association between negative relationship quality and blood pressure vary by gender? Does negative marital quality moderate the stress-blood pressure link? And does the moderating effect of negative marital quality differ for wives and husbands?
This research also indicates that it is important to consider the couple as a whole rather than the individual when examining marriage and health. Most importantly, this study revealed that wives’ stress has important implications for husbands’ blood pressure, particularly in more negative relationships. Specifically looking at the effects of negative relationship quality, researchers found that effects weren’t recognized when examining individuals but there were when examining interactions between both members of couple.
Lead author Kira S. Birditt said that they were particularly excited about these findings because they show that the effects of stress and negative relationship quality are truly dyadic in nature.
Birditt added that an individuals’ physiology is closely linked with not only his or her own experiences but the experiences and perceptions of their spouses. They 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.
They speculated that this finding may result from husbands’ greater reliance on wives for support which may not be provided when wives are more stressed, noted Birditt.
The study appears in the Journals of Gerontology.