Men who are unhappy in their marriage have a lower risk of developing diabetes than those in happy marriages.
Researchers from Michigan State University (MSU) discovered this surprising link during their analysis of data from 1,228 married people between the ages of 57 and 85 collected over a five year period. At the end of the study, 389 people had developed diabetes.
Led by MSU sociology professor Dr Hui Liu, the team discovered that not only were men in unhappy marriages were less likely to develop diabetes, those that did were able to manage the condition better than their happier peers.
Although the reason was unclear, researchers suggested a possible explanation. People at risk of diabetes need to carefully monitor certain aspects of their lifestyle, such as what they eat. Those who do are less likely to develop the disease, so it is possible that men whose wives regulate their behaviour and habits fall into that category.
However, the constant reminders and monitoring can cause resentment within a marriage as the husbands consider it ‘nagging’. This friction can come despite the health benefits the men experience by doing what their wives say. Dr Liu said her research suggests that “sometimes, nagging is caring”.
The results challenge “the traditional assumption that negative marital quality is always detrimental to health” she added. The MSU research should encourage future academics to “distinguish different sources and types of marital quality” in any research they do on links between marriage and health.
Meanwhile, women in the study followed a more expected pattern: the happier they were in their marriage, the less likely they were to develop diabetes.
Last year, researchers from the London School of Economics, University College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that men experience more health benefits from marriage than women.
Photo by Alan Levine via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.