Bad Marriage, Bad Heart? Marital Quality and Cardiovascular Risks among Older Adults

Hui Liu, Michigan State University
Linda Waite, University of Chicago

This study is among the first to assess how marital quality is related to cardiovascular risk—an important pathogenic mechanism involved in a host of age-related health conditions—at the population level. Working from a life course perspective, we identify several reasons to expect age and gender differences in the link between marital quality and cardiovascular risk. Using nationally representative longitudinal data from the first two waves of the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project, we analyze four cardiovascular risk outcomes: hypertension, rapid heart rate, C-reactive protein, and general cardiovascular events. Results suggest that marital quality and cardiovascular risk are generally more closely related for older married people than for their younger counterparts; and that the link between marital quality and cardiovascular risk is more pronounced among women than among men at older ages. These findings fit with the gendered life course perspective and cumulative disadvantage framework.

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Presented in Session 18: Marriage, Marital Dissolution, and Health