Shelley Fields, psychotherapy, psychotherapist, Counselor, Chapel Hill, Pittsboro  
Directions Privacy Practices
Marriage, Divorce, and  Health

The quality of our relationships is a very strong factor in determining the state of our physical well-being. Marital stress produces cortisol, a predictor of lowered immunity and increased health risk. Happiness in relationship or marriage boosts longevity. It’s a simple as that, according to recent studies. Although being married is a good predictor of a longer life, a poor marriage is as strong a health risk factor as other medical risks. One study linked marital distress to dangerous thickening of the heart wall, similar to that produced by smoking.

Although in general stress is detrimental to good health, marital tension may more harmful than other forms because it is so pervasive. There is no way to escape from it.

Studies have shown that arguments in couples can increase stress hormones, such as cortisol, that weaken the immune system. Research has linked these hormones with a number of health problems, making a person more susceptible to illness, slowing wound-healing and even interfering with the effectiveness of a vaccine. This kind of stress can affect newlyweds as well as those married for decades.

The amount of interaction with one’s partner can also impact health, depending upon the condition of the relationship. In an unhappy, conflicted relationship, time spent together can increase blood pressure; less stressful contact can reduce it. In good marriages, however, people who spent a lot of time with their spouse had healthier levels of blood pressure.

It makes sense to try to solve the problems in a marriage if they can be solved. Learning to become good friends as well as husband and wife is a goal worth striving for. If this is not possible to achieve, then it may be better for the health and well-being of both to consider divorce. If these problems are not addressed, there can be serious health consequences as well as ongoing dissatisfaction. Marital counseling with an experienced psychotherapist is an effective means of working on and resolving these difficult situations.