Background: Marital status is associated with the early stages and progression of cardiovascular disease, an association that may stem in part from the influence of marital quality on metabolic factors. The objective of this study was to examine whether women reporting marital satisfaction are at reduced risk of developing the metabolic syndrome compared with other women.
Methods: Four hundred thirteen middle-aged women from the Pittsburgh Healthy Women Study completed measures of marital status and marital satisfaction at baseline and 3 years later. Metabolic syndrome (diagnosed according to the criteria of the National Cholesterol Education Program) was assessed at baseline and at the last follow-up visit (an average of 11.5 years later).
Results: Compared with maritally satisfied women, maritally dissatisfied (odds ratio [OR], 3.02; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.46-6.24), divorced (OR, 2.47; 95% CI, 1.02-5.97), and widowed (OR, 5.82; 95% CI, 1.88-18.03) women were significantly more likely to have the metabolic syndrome at follow-up. The differences between maritally satisfied women and dissatisfied (OR, 3.18; 95% CI, 1.42-7.15) and widowed (OR, 5.69; 95% CI, 1.70-9.04) women remained significant in the full multivariate model. The difference between maritally satisfied women and divorced women (OR, 2.35; 95% CI, 0.89-6.18) was reduced to marginal significance in the full multivariate model. Single (OR, 2.84; 95% CI, 0.84-9.64) and moderately satisfied (OR, 1.06; 95% CI, 0.35-3.21) women did not differ significantly from maritally satisfied women.
Conclusions: Women in high-quality marriages are at lower risk of developing the metabolic syndrome. Social histories of patients should include assessment of marital quality.