WASHINGTON — Turns out, when people say their heart is aching due to a minor squabble with their partners, they are not exaggerating, as generally perceived.
A fight with a spouse may end in hurt feelings, but for those with chronic conditions like arthritis or diabetes, according to a study conducted by the Penn State. Those arguments may have physical repercussions as well.
The researchers found that in two groups of older individuals — one group with arthritis and one with diabetes– the patients who felt more tension with their spouse also reported worse symptoms on those days.
“It was exciting that we were able to see this association in two different data sets — two groups of people with two different diseases,” said researcher Lynn Martire. “The findings gave us insight into how marriage might affect health, which is important for people dealing with chronic conditions like arthritis or diabetes.”
Martire said it’s important to learn more about how and why symptoms of chronic disease worsen. People with osteoarthritis in their knees who experience greater pain become disabled quicker, and people with diabetes that isn’t controlled have a greater risk for developing complications.
The researchers said that while previous research has shown a connection between satisfying marriages and better health, both physically and psychologically, there’s been a lack of research into how day-to-day experiences impact those with chronic illness.
“We study chronic illnesses, which usually involve daily symptoms or fluctuations in symptoms,” Martire said. “Other studies have looked at the quality of someone’s marriage right now. But we wanted to drill down and examine how positive or negative interactions with your spouse affect your health from day to day.”
Data from two groups of participants were used for the study. One group was comprised of 145 patients with osteoarthritis in the knee and their spouses.
The other included 129 patients with type II diabetes and their spouses.
Participants in both groups kept daily diaries about their mood, how severe their symptoms were, and whether their interactions with their spouse were positive or negative.
The participants in the arthritis and diabetes groups kept their diaries for 22 and 24 days, respectively.
The researchers found that within both groups of participants, patients were in a worse mood on days when they felt more tension than usual with their spouse, which in turn led to greater pain or severity of symptoms.
Additionally, the researchers found that within the group with arthritis, the severity of the patient’s pain also had an effect on tensions with their spouse the following day. When they had greater pain, they were in a worse mood and had greater tension with their partner the next day.
“This almost starts to suggest a cycle where your marital interactions are more tense, you feel like your symptoms are more severe, and the next day you have more marital tension again,” Martire said.
“We didn’t find this effect in the participants with diabetes, which may just be due to differences in the two diseases.”
Martire said the results could potentially help create interventions targeted at helping couples with chronic diseases.
“We usually focus on illness-specific communications, but looking at tension in a marriage isn’t tied to the disease, it’s not a symptom of the disease itself,” Martire said. “It’s a measure you can get from any couple.
It suggests to me that looking beyond the illness, to improve the overall quality of the relationship might have some impact on health.”
The study appears in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine.
Bisexual relationship can break your heart, literally
WASHINGTON — Turns out, for men, being bisexual can be injurious to health.
According to a study conducted by the New York University, bisexual men have a higher risk for heart disease compared with heterosexual men across several modifiable risk factors.
“Our findings highlight the impact of sexual orientation, specifically sexual identity, on the cardiovascular health of men and suggest clinicians and public health practitioners should develop tailored screening and prevention to reduce heart disease risk in bisexual men,” said lead author Billy Caceres.
Little is known about the impact of sexual orientation on heart disease risk in men, despite the fact that gay and bisexual men may be at a higher risk based on modifiable factors like tobacco use and poor mental health.
In this study, the researchers examined differences in modifiable risk factors for heart disease and heart disease diagnoses in men of different sexual orientations.
Risk factors measured included mental distress; health behaviors such as tobacco use, binge drinking, diet, and exercise; and biological risk factors such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and cholesterol.
Participants who reported having angina, coronary heart disease, heart failure, heart attack, or stroke were considered as having a diagnosis of heart disease.
The researchers analysed responses from 7,731 men ages 20 to 59. Differences were analysed across four groups based on their sexual identities: gay men, bisexual men, heterosexual men who have sex with men, and heterosexual men.
The researchers found no differences in heart disease diagnoses based on sexual orientation, but the risk for heart disease was more complicated. Gay men, heterosexual men, and heterosexual men who have sex with men had similar heart disease risk.
Gay men reported lower binge drinking compared with heterosexual men, but otherwise few differences in health behaviors were noted.
Bisexual men, however, had higher rates of several risk factors for heart disease relative to heterosexual men: mental distress, obesity, elevated blood pressure, and three different measures of diabetes (medication use, medical history, and average glycosylated hemoglobin level).
“Poor mental health is a recognized risk factor for the development of heart disease,” said Caceres. “Clinicians should be educated about sexual minority health and should routinely screen bisexual men for mental distress as a risk factor for heart disease.
This is particularly important as healthcare organizations increasingly include sexual orientation as part of demographic questionnaires in electronic health records.”
The researchers also noted that the study underscores the importance of disaggregating analyses for gay and bisexual participants to ascertain differences in health outcomes between these subgroups.
The study findings appear in the journal LGBT Health.