By Kate Pickles
Many a husband will maintain he’s nearly nagged to death by his other half.
But new research suggests a man in a tumultuous relationship may be healthier than his happier counterparts.
Men in unhappy marriages are less likely to develop diabetes in the first place and control it better if they do have the disease.
And the reason behind this is? Wives who pester their husbands are more likely to regulate their heath behaviours, according to a national study led by Michigan State University university.
While this can be beneficial to their health, it can also be seen as annoying and provoke hostility and emotional distress.
Conversely, a woman’s chances of developing diabetes were lower when they were in a happy marriage, according to associate professor of sociology Dr Hui Liu.
‘The study challenges the traditional assumption that negative marital quality is always detrimental to health,’ she said.
‘It also encourages family scholars to distinguish different sources and types of marital quality.
‘Sometimes, nagging is caring.’
Using data from the National Social Life, Health and Ageing Project, Dr Liu and colleagues analysed the survey results from 1,228 married respondents over five years.
Those taking part were 57 to 85 years old when it began and 389 had diabetes at the end of the study.
It comes just days after experts said the world was in the grip of a diabetes ‘pandemic’ and that drugs and lifestyle interventions alone will not solve the crisis.
A recent World Health Organisation study found the number of adults with diabetes has quadrupled in the past four decades to 422 million.
And the international Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimates that by 2040 this will rise to 642 million.
It is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, affecting 9.3 per cent of the population.
Dr Liu, an expert in population-based health and family science, investigated the role of marital quality in diabetes risk and management and found two major gender differences:
The most surprising finding was that, for men, an increase in negative marital quality 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 prodding the husband to do, boosting his health but also increasing marital strain over time.
For women, a good marriage was related to a lower risk of being diabetic five years later.
Women may be more sensitive than men to the quality of a relationship and thus more likely to experience a health boost from a good-quality relationship, Dr Liu said.
‘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,’ she said.
The research was published online in the Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences.