If you ever thought your spouse raised your blood pressure, you now have a study to prove it. (Photo: Getty Images)
Anyone who has ever gotten in a heated debate with their partner knows that it can make your blood boil. But new research shows that the chronic stress of a bad relationship can actually spike your blood pressure.
Another finding? If a wife is stressed, her husband’s BP may skyrocket.
While previous research has shown a connection between stress, negative marital quality and blood pressure, study experts from University of Michigan decided to investigate these links a little further.
Over 1,300 married and cohabitating adults completed psychosocial (a questionnaire) and biomeasure (blood pressure) assessments in 2006 and 2010. “We looked at the spouses reports about how stressed they were and their reports of negative quality, which includes things like how demanding and critical the spouse is,” Kira S. Birditt, PhD, of The Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan and lead study author tells Yahoo Health. “And we looked at whether these factors were associated with overall levels of blood pressure over time.”
And yes, they were.
The researchers found that negative relationship quality was a predictor of blood pressure and that stress and relationship quality have both direct and moderating effects on the cardiovascular system.
As for which sex had more effects on their cardiovascular system … “Husbands had higher blood pressure when wives were more stressed and this association was even greater when they reported more negative relationships,” states Birditt. She adds that she and her team were “particularly fascinated” with this outcome. “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.”
Another interesting revelation was that it was important for the couples to be examined as a unit, rather than as individuals, when analyzing relationship and health. “When looking at negative quality, there was no association when looking at individual reports,” explains Birditt. “But there were dyadic effects such that when both members of the couple reported higher negative quality. We were particularly excited about these findings because they show that the effects of stress and negative relationship quality are truly dyadic in nature.”
So how do tension-filled couples lower their blood pressure? “I am not a clinician, but in my personal opinion, helping couples cope with stress more effectively may be an effective route,” says Birditt. A few de-stressing strategies can include speaking with a counselor (both individually and as a couple), engaging in fun, physical activities together and making it a point to be your partner’s best friend.