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By Nicholas Bakalar

Happily married people tend to have lower blood pressure than their single peers, but being single may be healthier than being unhappily married, a new study suggests. The study, published on March 20 in The Annals of Behavioral Medicine, sampled 303 generally healthy men and women, 204 married and 99 single. Each responded to questions about marital quality, social support and mental health. Scales were used to rate stress and life satisfaction.

Then each subject wore a portable blood pressure monitor for 24 hours while performing their normal activities. The groups had little difference in waking blood pressure, but married people had significantly larger dips in blood pressure during sleep.

People whose blood pressure does not dip during sleep are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, according to Julianne Holt-Lunstad, the lead author and an assistant professor of psychology at Brigham Young University.

On average, the unhappily married had higher daytime and 24-hour blood pressure readings than single people. Having a wide social network had no effect on the trends for either married or single people. But marital satisfaction was significantly associated with satisfaction with life, lower stress, less depression and lower waking blood pressure. “Just being married per se isn’t helpful,’’ Dr. Holt-Lunstad said, “because you can potentially be worse off in an unhappy marriage. So, choose wisely.’’
(http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage. April 1, 2008. Adaptado.)

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