February 18th, 2014
There’s a saying: “happy wife, happy life.” There may just be more truth to that saying than you think! Having a supportive Partner provides a sense of ease, security, comfort and love. But according to a new study in the Journal of Psychological Science, a spouse’s support may be good for the heart in more ways than one. Matters of the heart can influence actual heart health, according to new researches.
Researchers from the University of Utah revealed that both having or being a supportive partner are associated with having a healthier heart. The study took 136 couples, with an average age of 63 and an average marriage length of 36 years, and asked couples to answer a questionnaire regarding spousal support and marriage quality. Approximately 30 percent of the participants reported that their spouses provided positive support, while 70 percent of the participants said their spouses were sometimes helpful and sometimes upsetting (not a complete supportive partner). Following this, researchers examined participants for coronary artery calcification (CAC), a condition causing hardened arteries, a risk factor for heart disease. Results determined that when both spouses answered that they do not see their spouse a complete supportive partner, the levels of coronary artery calcification were highest, compared with when just one partner said his or her partner is a supportive partner.
In fact, having a supportive partner had a great influence on coronary artery calcification prevention! Psychological scientist of the University of Utah, Bert Uchino said in a statement on the study that it is possible that “couples who have more ambivalent views of each other actively interact or process relationship information in ways that increase their stress or undermine the supportive potential in the relationship. This, in turn, may influence their cardiovascular disease risk.”
It’s not exactly clear why this is the case, but the researchers hypothesize that when both partners perceive each other as a not supportive partner, it changes their behavior toward one another.
While Uchino and colleagues can’t be certain that mutual ambivalence causes higher levels of CAC, since the study didn’t follow participants over time, the results do provide the initial evidence necessary for longitudinal studies on relationship support and cardiovascular health.
Going forward, the researchers are interested in exploring the actual biological, social, and behavioral pathways linking having supportive partner and reducing CAC levels, as well as ways to reduce ambivalence in important social ties.