According to researchers, stressed wives can elevate husbands’ blood pressure — particularly in more negative relationships — which may lead to cardiovascular problems.
Using systolic (maximum) blood pressure as a gauge, 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.
The findings support previous research that asserts stress and relationship quality have both direct and moderating effects on the cardiovascular system.
“However, we found 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,” explained lead author Kira S Birditt from the University of Michigan’s institute for social research.
“This finding may result from husbands’ greater reliance on wives for support which may not be provided when wives are more stressed,” Birditt added.
This study addressed several questions like if chronic stress predicts blood pressure or is the association between chronic stress and blood pressure varies between husbands and wives.
It also looked at if negative relationship quality predicts blood pressure or the association between negative relationship quality and blood pressure varies by gender.
Specifically looking at the effects of negative relationship quality, researchers found that effects were not recognised when examining individuals but they were when examining interactions between both members of couple.
“It is important to consider the couple as a whole rather than the individual when examining marriage and health,” the authors noted in the study that appeared in the Journals of Gerontology.