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.