Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Dr. Birditt: We know that negative marital quality (e.g., conflict, irritation) has important implications for physical health but the mechanisms that account for these links are still unclear. This study explored links between negative marital quality (e.g., criticism, demands), stress (long term chronic stresses) and blood pressure among older married couples in a large longitudinal nationally representative sample of couples in the U.S.. We found that husbands had higher blood pressure when wives reported greater stress and that this link was even greater when husbands felt more negative about the relationship. In addition, negative marital quality experienced by only one member of the couple was not associated with blood pressure but when both members of the couple reported higher negative marital quality they had higher blood pressure.
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Birditt: When examining a married individual’s cardiovascular health, it is important to consider both members of the couple to understand what may be negatively influencing an individual’s cardiovascular health.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Birditt: Future research should explore other health indicators to assess whether there are similar outcomes when measuring the immune system and the metabolic system, for example. Future research should also explore the coping strategies couples use when they experience negativity in their relationships to understand the strategies that may exacerbate or buffer the effects of negative quality and stress on blood pressure.
Kira S. Birditt, Nicky J. Newton, James A. Cranford, and Lindsay H. Ryan. Stress and Negative Relationship Quality among Older Couples: Implications for Blood Pressure. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci, April 7, 2015 DOI: 10.1093/geronb/gbv023
MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Kira S. Birditt, Ph.D. (2015). A Bad Marriage May Lead to High Blood Pressure