Changes in marital quality over 6 years and its association with cardiovascular disease risk factors in men: findings from the ALSPAC prospective cohort study

J Epidemiol Community Health. 2017 Nov;71(11):1094-1100. doi: 10.1136/jech-2017-209178. Epub 2017 Oct 9.


Background: Marital relationship quality has been suggested to have independent effects on cardiovascular health outcomes. This study investigates the association between changes in marital relationship quality and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors in men.

Methods: We used data from The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, a prospective birth cohort study (Bristol, UK). Our baseline sample was restricted to married study fathers with baseline relationship and covariate data (n=2496). We restricted final analysis (n=620) to those with complete outcome, exposure and covariate data, who were married and confirmed the study child's father at 6.4 years and 18.8 years after baseline. Relationship quality was measured at baseline and 6.4 years and operationalised as consistently good, improving, deteriorating or consistently poor relationship. We measured CVD risk factors of blood pressure, resting heart rate, body mass index, lipid profile and fasting glucose at 18.8 years after baseline.

Results: Improving relationships were associated with lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (-0.25 mmol/L, 95% CI -0.46 to -0.03) and relative reduction of body mass index (-1.07 kg/m2, 95% CI -1.73 to -0.42) compared with consistently good relationships, adjusting for confounders. Weaker associations were found between improving relationships and total cholesterol (-0.24 mmol/L, 95% CI -0.48 to 0.00) and diastolic blood pressure (-2.24 mm Hg, 95% CI -4.59 to +0.11). Deteriorating relationships were associated with worsening diastolic blood pressure (+2.74 mm Hg, 95% CI 0.50 to 4.98).

Conclusions: Improvement and deterioration of longitudinal relationship quality appears associated with respectively positive and negative associations with a range of CVD risk factors.

Keywords: ALSPAC; cardiovascular risk factors; cohort study; male health; marital quality.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / psychology*
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology*
  • Men's Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Risk Factors
  • United Kingdom