March 17, 2007 / 12:13 AM / 13 years ago

Happy marriage may offset ill effects of job stress

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Having a happy marriage may counteract some of the ill effects of a stressful job such as high blood pressure, researchers said on Friday.

They found that people in high-pressured jobs show a rise their average blood pressure over one year if they have a poor relationship with their spouse.

But the reverse is true for workers who have a caring marriage or relationship.

“People with both high job strain and low marital cohesion may benefit from having their blood pressure regularly assessed,” Dr. Sheldon W. Tobe, of the University of Toronto, said in the Journal of Hypertension.

Tobe and his team conducted the study to examine whether job factors and marriage quality — both of which have been shown separately to influence health — might interact to affect blood pressure.

They followed 229 men and women for one year. All of them were living with a spouse or partner and did not suffer from high blood pressure at the start of the study.

The researchers looked specifically at how the couples supported one another. The participants wore monitors that checked their blood pressure throughout the working day at the start of the study and one year later.

People with high levels of job strain who had low marital cohesion had a three-point increase in their systolic blood pressure, the top number in a blood pressure reading.

But other participants in very cohesive marriages who were experiencing job strain had a 3-point drop in their systolic blood pressure.

When the researchers looked at men and women separately, the relationship among stress, blood pressure and marital cohesion remained strong for women, but it disappeared for men, suggesting the effect may be gender-specific.

Being stressed on the job while having little control over work demands can boost inflammation and levels of stress hormones, the researchers said.

“In an affected individual, the soothing effect of high marital cohesion may lower blood pressure by reversing this effect,” they added.

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