Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 239–244 | Cite as

Is There Something Unique about Marriage? The Relative Impact of Marital Status, Relationship Quality, and Network Social Support on Ambulatory Blood Pressure and Mental Health

  • Julianne Holt-Lunstad
  • Wendy Birmingham
  • Brandon Q. Jones
Rapid Communications

Abstract

Background

Having close social relationships and being married specifically have been reliably associated with health benefits including lower morbidity and mortality.

Purpose

The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of marital status, relationship quality, and network support on measures of psychological and cardiovascular health.

Method

We examined ambulatory blood pressure (ABP) among 204 married and 99 single males and females (N = 303).

Results

We found that both marital status and marital quality were important. Married individuals had greater satisfaction with life (SWL) and blood pressure dipping than single individuals. High marital quality was associated with lower ABP, lower stress, less depression, and higher SWL. Importantly, contrasting those who are unmarried with those in low-quality marriages, we find that single individuals had lower ABP—suggesting that single individuals fare better than their unhappily married counterparts. Likewise, having a supportive network did not moderate (i.e., buffer) the effects of being single or unhappily married.

Conclusions

Findings indicate being married per se is not universally beneficial, rather, the satisfaction and support associated with such a relationship is important. However, marriage may be distinctive, as evidence further suggests that support from one’s network does not compensate for the effect of being single. These results highlight the complexities in understanding the influence of social relationships on long-term health, and they may help clarify the physiological pathways by which such associations exist.

Keywords

Marriage Social support Ambulatory blood pressure Cardiovascular Stress Depression 

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Copyright information

© The Society of Behavioral Medicine 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julianne Holt-Lunstad
    • 1
  • Wendy Birmingham
    • 2
  • Brandon Q. Jones
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyBrigham Young UniversityProvoUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA
  3. 3.Department of MedicineGeorge Washington UniversityWashingtonUSA

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