Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-7175, USA.
Background: Prospective studies link marriage to better cardiovascular health, but marital dissatisfaction and discord predict increased rates of hypertension, higher blood pressure (BP), greater reactivity to stress, and left ventricular mass.
Objective: To determine and compare effects of partner status and relationship quality on 24-h BP, urinary norepinephrine and cortisol, and self-reported stress and negative affect.
Methods: Ambulatory BP (ABP) and 24-h urine collections were obtained during a typical work day in 325 adults, including 139 African Americans (AAs). Participants cohabiting with a spouse or partner were classified into high, intermediate and low relationship quality (RQ) groups and compared to those without partners (Alone).
Results: Mean ABP was nearly identical in participants with versus without partners (125.7/76.9 versus 125.9/76.7 mmHg). High RQ subjects had lower mean waking ABP than intermediate/low RQ and Alone groups [systolic blood pressure (SBP), F=3.45; diastolic blood pressure (DBP), F=3.38, P-values <0.05]. High RQ was related to lower SBP and DBP in African Americans, and to lower SBP in Whites. High RQ was also linked to lower SBP and DBP in men, and to lower SBP in women. High RQ subjects reported less negative affect and stress than all other groups (P<0.05). Norepinephrine was lower in partnered versus Alone women regardless of RQ status.
Conclusions: Relationship quality is a better predictor of daily BP, affect and stress than partner status. High RQ is linked to lower ABP across race and gender. This reduced ABP may be due, in part, to the stress buffering effects of better RQ and/or the stress enhancing effects of poor RQ.
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