Men whose wives are stressed or unhappy are more likely to have high blood pressure a new academic study suggests.
Researchers set out to examine the effect of stress and marital difficulties on the health and mortality of couples over time, looking in particular at whether their blood pressure was influenced by their own or their partner’s stress.
Their analysis suggested that stress has a holistic influence on the health of couples, and that effects are sometimes detected when couples interact that cannot be seen when the parties are studied individually.
In particular, husbands displayed higher blood pressure when their wives said they were stressed – but wives did not do so when their husbands were stressed. The effect was particularly pronounced when the marriage was unhappy or troubled.
Study author Kira S Birditt is an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan. She said the results showed that stress and unhappiness within marriage were “truly dyadic [dual] in nature”.
“An individuals’ physiology is closely linked with not only his or her own experiences but the experiences and perceptions of their spouses.”
The finding that husbands were more affected by their wives’ stress went against the popular perception of female preoccupation with the “marital tie”, she added.
“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.”
The study was published in the Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences.
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