A surprising finding: unhappily married men have lower diabetes risk

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lower diabetes risk

It is known that happy relationships are important for people’s physical and mental health. However, a recent study conducted by University of Chicago shows that men with an unhappy marriage have lower risk of diabetes.

The finding is published in Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences. The original goal of the study was to examine the association between marriage quality and the diabetes risk and management in later life.

Researchers used data from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project. This project is a longitudinal study of health and social factors.

It aims to understand the well-being of older, community-dwelling Americans by examining the interactions among physical health and illness, medication use, cognitive function, emotional health, sensory function, health behaviors, social connectedness, sexuality, and relationship quality.

In the study, the data sample included 1,228 married people, among whom 389 were diabetic. Researchers analyzed these participants’ marriage satisfaction and their diabetes conditions.

The result shows that for women, an increase in positive marital quality was related to a lower risk of diabetes later in life. For men, however, an increase in negative marital quality was related to a lower risk of being diabetic and a higher chance of controlling diabetes

This finding challenges the traditional assumption that negative marital quality is always detrimental to health.

It seems that men who experience an unhappy marriage are more likely to be self-regulated or self-centered than other men to promote their health.

Another possibility is that the measure of negative marriage quality does not reflect intense conflict in the relationship, but is based on reports that the spouse often “criticizes” or “makes too many demands” (e.g., wives’ complains about husbands’ unhealthy behavior).

Therefore, when a wife complains about the husband’s unhealthy behavior, the husband feels unhappy in marriage. To reduce the wife’s complain, the husband has to change his lifestyle to become healthier.

In the future, researchers will use data from larger samples and longer follow-up studies to clarify the effects of marriage quality on diabetes development and management.

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Citation: Liu H, et al. (2016). Diabetes Risk and Disease Management in Later Life: A National Longitudinal Study of the Role of Marital Quality. Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences, published online. Doi:10.1093/geronb/gbw061.
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