CHICAGO, March 5 (UPI) -- A strained marriage can result in both spouses getting depressed, but only wives face higher heart disease risk because of it, U.S. researchers say.
First author Nancy Henry, a doctoral student in psychology at the University of Utah, said people experiencing more conflict, hostility and disagreement in their marriages would tend to be more depressed. That, in turn, would be associated with a higher risk of heart disease due to metabolic syndrome -- a risk factor for heart disease, she said.
But it turns out it doesn't work the same for men and women, the researchers learned.
"We found this was true for wives in this study, but not for husbands," Henry said in a statement. "The gender difference is important because heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, as well as men, and we are still learning a lot about how relationship factors and emotional distress are related to heart disease."
Study co-author Tim Smith, a psychology professor, said the endocrinology of depression's psychological stress may explain why the five risk factors that comprise metabolic syndrome -- hypertension, obesity around the waistline, high blood sugar, high triglycerides and low levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, the "good cholesterol" --
-- fit together.
Smith hypothesizes that perhaps "the hormonal effects of stress are why you are depositing fat around the waist; why your insulin resistance goes up, why your lipids and blood pressure get out of whack."
Henry will present the findings at the American Psychosomatic Society's annual meeting in Chicago.