Stressful marriages linked with depression, study finds

Family Law|April 29th 2014

Stressful marriages can make people more prone to depression, according to a recent study.

The study, by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, found higher levels of marital stress led to people feeling less satisfaction from positive life experiences: a hallmark of depression.

Participants in the long term study were asked questions like how often they were criticised by their partner or how often they felt let down by them.

The questions were repeated nine years later, before the participants were subjected to a series of emotional tests in year eleven of the study.

The tests involved participants being shown a collection of 90 images, some positive, some negative and some neutral.

The results of the tests demonstrated that those who had reported higher levels of marital stress were less responsive to positive images than those who were more happily married.

By contrast, there was no significant difference between the two groups in response to negative images.

The research was led by Richard Davidson, a professor of psychology and psychiatry, who said:

“This is not an obvious consequence, if you will, of marital stress, but it’s one I think is extraordinarily important because of the cascade of changes that may be associated.”

He added:

“This is the signature of an emotional style that reveals vulnerability to depression.”

Many previous studies have claimed married people are happier than their single counterparts.

Me? I think it’s rather stating the obvious. If you aren’t happily married and you are under constant pressure or criticism from one constant source, of course depression can ensue and in my job its often easy to see when I’m consulted for the first time by someone suffering continual abuse whether mental or physical or both. Remove the cause of the stress and recovery soon occurs.

But recognising the cause of the stress and doing something about it whilst in a depressed state that can often be a big challenge. Depression makes it harder to make a decision, harder to leave, harder to change. That’s why many such clients are accompanied by a friend or family member who can see the problem much clearer. Treat the depression by recognising and dealing with the cause and life can and does regain its colour and its meaning.

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