Ambivalent Marriages Harm Heart Health
Feeling ambivalent or unappreciated in your current relationship? Start showing and demanding support to protect your heart... literally.
New research reveals that how you support your spouse or how your spouse supports you can significantly affect your cardiovascular health.
Researchers found that both partners' levels of coronary artery calcification tend to be particularly high when partners feel the support they get from each other is ambivalent, meaning that they're sometimes helpful and sometimes hurtful.
"There is a large body of epidemiological research suggesting that our relationships are predictors of mortality rates, especially from cardiovascular disease," Bert Uchino, psychological scientist of the University of Utah, said in a news release. "But most prior work has ignored the fact that many relationships are characterized by both positive and negative aspects - in other words, ambivalence."
The latest study involved 136 older couples who had an average age of 63. Participants were asked to fill out questionnaires that determined their overall marriage quality and how they felt about the support they get from their spouse. Participants also rated how helpful or how upsetting their spouse was during times when they needed support, advice or a favor.
The findings were pretty discouraging. The study revealed that only 30 percent of individuals perceived their partner as delivering positive support, whereas 70 percent viewed their partner as ambivalent, or sometimes helpful and sometimes upsetting.
After undergoing CT scans to evaluate overall calcification in the participants' coronary arteries, researchers found that coronary artery calcification levels were highest when both partners in relationships viewed each other as ambivalent. However, the risk was significantly less when only one partner felt ambivalent.
Researchers said the findings held true independent of gender, meaning that these links were similar for husbands and wives.
Surprising, overall marital satisfaction did not have a significant impact on cardiovascular health, according to researchers. However, it was perceptions of support that were most predictive of heart health.