Bad marriages and breast cancer don’t mix

By • Published: February 4th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

With half of marriages ending in divorce, happily ever after is often more fairy tale than reality. And being in a rocky relationship could be more of a problem than some women realize.

A new Ohio State University study shows that breast cancer patients in bad relationships faced more challenges battling the disease than women in happier couplings.

The researchers followed a hundred women for five years. While they reported similar levels of stress after their breast cancer diagnosis, these high stress levels seemed to go down over time for women in better marriages. Women in good marriages also stuck to better eating and exercising habits and seemed to recover faster and suffer fewer symptoms than women in less-happy circumstances. According to the study, this happy marriage protective effect occurred regardless of prognosis or treatment.

The researchers also tracked how the women felt about their marriages for all five years of the study. Their feelings changed little over the years, showing that the relationship problems weren’t linked to the cancer.

Other studies have found similar links between rough-and-tumble relationships and poor health. A 2006 University of Texas study showed that a bad marriage could lead to poorer health for men and women. That study also found that divorce makes for better health than sticking with a bad marriage.

Experts say it’s never too late to seek help. After all, this probably isn’t what you envisioned when you vowed to stay together in sickness and in health.