Posted on Sep 17, 2013, 6 a.m.
A spouse's social network quality may influence blood pressure in the other spouse.
Previously, studies suggest that a person’s social relationships may impact his or her own health outcomes. Bert N. Uchino, from the University of Utah (Utah, USA), and colleagues studied 94 married couples (mean age 29.6 years) who were free from hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and a recent history of psychological disorders. For each subject, the team assessed the quality of their social contacts, looking for supportive relationships, aversive relationships, or relationships with both positive and negative aspects (defined as ambivalent ties). On average, the participants had an average of 8.39 supportive social ties, 7.92 ambivalent social ties, and 1.02 aversive relationships. Each participant underwent blood pressure monitoring on one day. The researchers observed that the quality of an individual's social networks was associated with his/her own health: a greater number of supportive ties were associated with reduced diastolic blood pressure, and a greater number of aversive ties were associated with higher systolic and diastolic blood pressure. After adjusting for confounding factors, the researchers also found that a greater number supportive ties in one spouse was marginally associated with lower systolic blood pressure in the other spouse, and a greater number of aversive or ambivalent ties were associated with increased systolic and diastolic blood pressure in the other spouse. As well, the combined quality of a married couple's social networks also seemed to influence blood pressure in a similar fashion. The study authors conclude that: “These data suggest that the social ties of those we have close relationships with may influence our cardiovascular risk and opens new opportunities to capitalize on untapped social resources or to mitigate hidden sources of social strain.”
Bert N. Uchino, Timothy W. Smith, McKenzie Carlisle, Wendy C. Birmingham, Kathleen C. Light. “The Quality of Spouses’ Social Networks Contributes to Each Other’s Cardiovascular Risk.” PLOS ONE, 21 Aug. 2013.