Researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) came across a strange and surprising finding regarding men and diabetes: Men in an unhappy marriage — as opposed to a happy one — had a reduced risk of developing diabetes and an increased chance of successful treatment after diagnosis.
While the reasons for this are unclear, it could be that wives are often watching and regulating their husband’s health behaviors, especially if he is in poor health or diabetic, say the researchers. And while this may be seen as nagging, the situation may ultimately improve the husband’s physical health.
For the study, lead investigator Dr. Hui Liu, an MSU associate professor of sociology and expert in population-based health and family science set out to investigate the role of marital quality in diabetes risk and management.
She and her colleagues looked at data from the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project and analyzed the survey results from 1,228 married respondents (57 to 85 years old at onset of study) taken over a five-year period. By the end of the study, 389 had developed diabetes.
Liu found two major gender differences: For men, an increase in negative marital quality actually lowered the risk of developing diabetes and increased the chances of managing the disease after its onset.
Diabetes requires frequent monitoring that the wives could be insisting that the husband carry out, potentially boosting his health but also increasing marital stress over time, according to the researchers.
“The study challenges the traditional assumption that negative marital quality is always detrimental to health,” said Liu. “It also encourages family scholars to distinguish different sources and types of marital quality. Sometimes, nagging is caring.”
For women, the findings played out more conventionally: Women in good marriages had a reduced risk of diabetes five years later.
Perhaps women are more sensitive than men to the quality of a relationship, said Liu, and thus more likely to experience a health boost from a good-quality relationship.
More than 9.3 percent of the population (29 million Americans) had diabetes in 2012. It is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.
“Since diabetes is the fastest growing chronic condition in the United States, implementation of public policies and programs designed to promote marital quality should also reduce the risk of diabetes and promote health and longevity, especially for women at older ages,” the study says.
Source: Michigan State University