Changes in marital quality over 6 years and its association with cardiovascular disease risk factors in men: findings from the ALSPAC prospective cohort study

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Abstract

Background

Marital relationship quality has been suggested to have independent effects on cardiovascular health outcomes. This study investigates the association between changes in marital relationship quality and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors in men.

Methods

We used data from The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, a prospective birth cohort study (Bristol, UK). Our baseline sample was restricted to married study fathers with baseline relationship and covariate data (n=2496). We restricted final analysis (n=620) to those with complete outcome, exposure and covariate data, who were married and confirmed the study child’s father at 6.4 years and 18.8 years after baseline. Relationship quality was measured at baseline and 6.4 years and operationalised as consistently good, improving, deteriorating or consistently poor relationship. We measured CVD risk factors of blood pressure, resting heart rate, body mass index, lipid profile and fasting glucose at 18.8 years after baseline.

Results

Improving relationships were associated with lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (−0.25 mmol/L, 95% CI −0.46 to −0.03) and relative reduction of body mass index (−1.07 kg/m2, 95% CI −1.73 to −0.42) compared with consistently good relationships, adjusting for confounders. Weaker associations were found between improving relationships and total cholesterol (−0.24 mmol/L, 95% CI −0.48 to 0.00) and diastolic blood pressure (−2.24 mm Hg, 95% CI −4.59 to +0.11). Deteriorating relationships were associated with worsening diastolic blood pressure (+2.74 mm Hg, 95% CI 0.50 to 4.98).

Conclusions

Improvement and deterioration of longitudinal relationship quality appears associated with respectively positive and negative associations with a range of CVD risk factors.

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