February 17, 2005


Women who avoid marital fights likely to die sooner

A story published today on the KMBC-TV website of the Kansas City Channel, reports that married women who avoid conflict with their spouses have an increased risk of dying from any cause, according to a news release from the Second International Conference on Women, Heart Disease and Stroke.

But married men were less likely to die than their single counterparts over a 10-year period, despite other health risks.

Researchers from Boston University and the Eaker Epideiology Enterprise tracked nearly 4,000 men and women, about 3,000 of whom were in marriages or "marital situations" for 10 years to see if they developed heart problems or died.


The couples were asked about things such as disagreements, overall satisfaction and conflict resolution.

"Married men were heavier, older, and had higher blood pressure and a less favorable lipid profile compared to unmarried men," principal investigator Elaine D. Eaker said. "Unmarried men were more likely to be smokers."

Married men were about half as likely to die as unmarried men.

On the other hand, marital status and traditional measures of marital strain had no effect on women developing heart disease or dying. However, when considering more contemporary measures, two types of marital strain were found to be significantly related to the health of married women as well as men.

Women who reported usually or always keeping their feelings to themselves when in conflict with their husbands, known as self-silencing, had more than four times the risk of dying from any cause compared to women who always show their feelings, the researchers said.

"We believe we have found characteristics of marriages that have an impact on peoples' health and longevity," Eaker said. She suggested that screening questions be added to medical history questionnaires to uncover problems, allowing for counseling referrals if appropriate.