Generally, research has shown that having close relationships can have significant physical health benefits. Interestingly, new research has shown that there is a nuance to this that seems somewhat obvious: having close relationships cloaked in negativity can be harmful to your health. For both men and women in the study, there was around a 34% increase in risk for heart problems.

What’s behind the bad marriage, bad heart link? People may mentally “replay” the negative interactions, De Vogli and other researchers suspect. “It can activate emotional responses, including depression or hostility,” he says, in turn boosting heart disease risk. De Vogli found the association held for both men and women and for those in higher and lower social positions. More likely to have negative relationships, he did find, were those in lower-grade jobs. Negative close relationships were less likely in people who were never married.

I don’t think that the mental stress-physical health link is new to anyone, which is essentially how I read this article. An interesting dilemma in heart disease treatment thus becomes whether getting out of a bad marriage (or at least trying to improve it) could literally be recommended along with eating better and laying off alcohol and cigarettes.