(This research is all the more reason to help couples learn how to get married and have HAPPY SATISFYING marriages. - diane)

20 March 2008
Brittani Lusk

A good friend might be a better listener or manicure buddy, but if you're looking to lower your blood pressure, it might help to get a fiance and head to the altar.

According to a new study released by a Brigham Young University researcher, those who are happily married have lower blood pressure than singles -- even those with supportive social networks. But there is no evidence the jumps come all at once, and those who were unhappily married had blood pressure higher than singles.

"I think it could be safely argued that the type of social support within a marital relationship would be just as important if not more important than support from social [relationships]," said BYU physiology professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad, who wrote the study.

She found that people in happy marriages surveyed for 24 hours had blood pressure four points lower than single adults who also were surveyed. The findings will be published in today's issue of the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

The research helps to further explain why married adults are healthier and live longer. Holt-Lunstad said there could be something in the marriage relationship that can't be gleaned from mere friendship. Her research also shows that happily married people could have a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.

"With the spousal relationship there's a greater level of commitment and intimacy -- at least a greater expectation of commitment and intimacy than in many other relationships," Holt-Lunstad said.

In addition to the general, lower blood pressure of those happily married, Holt-Lunstad said she and her co-researchers also found that married adults had blood pressure that dipped more than that of single adults when they slept. Those whose blood pressure stays high at night are at a greater risk for heart disease.

Holt-Lunstad said that as people age, their blood pressure tends to increase. Perhaps being married slows the climb due to the supportive marital relationship, she said.

BYU senior Katie NeVille isn't married and is fine with it. She said being married soon would be nice, but she isn't worried: She has friends.

"I live with great roommates," Neville said. "We can just go have fun together. We are just fine hanging out."

Neville did say that letting go of the social life would be one less stress to deal with if she were married.

"Of course marriage is going to come with problems," Neville said. "It will be nice just to have that stability."

BYU senior Randal Serr has been married for about three months. He said his life is easier because he doesn't have to carve out time to see his wife because they live together.

"You don't have to find the time to be with your significant other," Serr said.

It also helps that Serr doesn't get lonely anymore.

"The best part about marriage is the companionship," Serr said.

Holt-Lunstad acknowledged the pressures some BYU students feel to get married and said her samples came from the community, not from campus.

 Good marriage equals good blood pressure

By MALCOLM RITTER, AP Science Writer
Mar 20, 2008

A happy marriage is good for your blood pressure, but a stressed one can be worse than being single, a preliminary study suggests.

That second finding is a surprise because prior studies have shown that married people tend to be healthier than singles, said researcher Julianne Holt-Lunstad.

It would take further study to sort out what the results mean for long-term health, said Holt-Lunstad, an assistant psychology professor at Brigham Young University. Her study was reported online Thursday by the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

The study involved 204 married people and 99 single adults. Most were white, and it's not clear whether the same results would apply to other ethnic groups, Holt-Lunstad said.

Study volunteers wore devices that recorded their blood pressure at random times over 24 hours. Married participants also filled out questionnaires about their marriage.

Analysis found that the more marital satisfaction and adjustment spouses reported, the lower their average blood pressure was over the 24 hours and during the daytime.

But spouses who scored low in marital satisfaction had higher average blood pressure than single people did. During the daytime, their average was about five points higher, entering a range that's considered a warning sign. (That result is for the top number in a blood pressure reading).

"I think this (study) is worth some attention," said Karen Matthews, a professor of psychiatry, psychology and epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh. She studies heart disease and high blood pressure but didn't participate in the new work.

Few studies of the risk for high blood pressure have looked at marital quality rather than just marital status, she said.

It makes sense that marital quality is more important than just being married when it comes to affecting blood pressure, said Dr. Brian Baker, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto.
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