Bad Marriages May Literally Cause Broken Hearts

The symbolism of a broken heart to represent the pain of loss as dates back at least five centuries. Obviously, it has become a very common way to express the emotional impact of grief, usually related to losing a loved one. Whether caused by death, betrayal, romantic rejection, or divorce, heartbreak may have some physiological manifestations, but it is primarily a psychological and emotional reaction. A recent study, however, suggests that for certain demographics, a bad marital situation may contribute to the deterioration of the physical health of the heart as well.

Published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, and sponsored by the National Institute of Aging, the study was conducted by Michigan State University sociologist, Hui Liu and University of Chicago sociology professor, Linda Waite. Their research included five years of information gathered from approximately 1200 married adults between the ages of 57 and 85, and examined a potential link between marital quality and heart health.

The study identified that negative marriage quality, such as situations where spouses are overly critical or demanding, or communication is poor, increases the likelihood of heart-related events or conditions. Liu and Waite found that the effect was greater on women’s cardiovascular health than on that of men, possibly, Liu said, due to women’s tendencies to internalize their feelings, possibly leading to depression and heart problems.

Their findings also suggest the impact on heart health grows stronger as the married couple gets older. Liu points out that aging and weaker immune systems which are increasingly susceptible to outside influences may be a factor. The researchers also noted that avenues for improving marital quality, such as counseling and therapy, tend to be aimed at younger couples, and need to be made more accessible to older couples as well.

Liu and Waite’s research, like most studies of this sort, is an attempt to identify trends and risk factors, rather than case-by-case cause and effect relationships. It can be helpful for couples of any age to be aware that their personal relationships may, in fact, have an impact on their physiological health. In light of this study, an “unhealthy relationship” may be an accurate description of some marriages, in more ways than previously realized.

If you live in Illinois and find yourself in a bad marriage, you need to know your options. Contact an experienced DuPage County family law attorney today. We will review your situation and can help you avoid unnecessary health risks related to poor marital quality.