Marital Status, Marital Strain, and Risk of Heart Disease

Marital Status, Marital Strain, and Risk of Heart Disease

Just the other day I was watching a comedian on one of the comedy channels.  Though I only managed to catch the last few minutes of the show, I heard a really funny skit which ties into this blog post.  The comedian quipped, “Hope is a single man’s game…  married men don’t have hope.  When a married man is driving home from work, he hopes that his wife will be cooking him dinner…  She didn’t!  He hopes that she won’t be mad at him…  She is!  He hopes that she will…  She won’t!”

In contrast, the results of this recent study which are based on the Framingham Offspring study which includes ten years of follow-up, suggest that married men, when compared to unmarried men, were half as likely to die of coronary heart disease.

Study Objectives:

“OBJECTIVE: To determine if marriage and marital strain are related to the 10-year coronary heart disease (CHD) incidence or total mortality. Research has demonstrated associations between marital strain and prognosis of heart disease, but little research has addressed the association between specific aspects of marital strain and incident “

Study Results:

“After adjusting for age, systolic blood pressure, body mass index, cigarette smoking, diabetes, and total cholesterol/high density cholesterol, the married men compared with unmarried men were almost half as likely to die during follow-up (hazard ratio (HR) = 0.54; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.34-0.83).

Women who “self-silenced” during conflict with their spouse, compared with women who did not, had four times the risk of dying (HR = 4.01; 95% CI: 1.75-9.20). Men with wives who were upset by work were 2.7 times more likely to develop CHD (HR = 2.71; 95% CI: 1.22-6.03). Marital happiness, satisfaction, and disagreements were not related to the development of CHD or death in men or women.”

Key Points:

  1. Married men live longer than unmarried men from the results of the Framingham study.
  2. Men whose wives were upset by work were 2.7 times more likely to develop coronary heart disease.
  3. Women who “self-silenced” during conflicts with their spouse had four times the risk of dying.


  1. Eaker ED, Sullivan LM, Kelly-Hayes M, D’Agostino RB Sr, Benjamin EJ.  Marital status, marital strain, and risk of coronary heart disease or total mortality: the Framingham Offspring Study.  Psychosom Med. 2007 Jul-Aug;69(6):509-13. Epub 2007 Jul 18.
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