(ĐTĐ) – Rheumatoid arthritis patients who had the support of a loving husband or wife reported less joint pain and better mobility than those who were single or whose marriage was on the rocks.
A happy marriage helps ease the agony of arthritis, research suggests. Scientists believe the emotional stability that a strong marriage provides also has a powerful effect on physical sensations, such as pain.
That loving feeling: Arthritis sufferers report less pain if they are happily married
The findings, published in the Journal of Pain, support earlier studies which found the crippling disease progressed more slowly in married than single people.
But the latest research suggests that the state of the marriage is key.
‘These findings suggest the links between being married and health depend on the quality of the marriage, not simply whether or not someone is married,’ said research leader Dr Jennifer Barsky Reese, from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, USA.
‘There is something about being in a high-quality marriage that seems to buffer a patient’s emotional health.’
One of the most common forms of the disease, rheumatoid arthritis affects around 350,000 people in Britain.
It occurs when the immune system attacks the joints, causing stiffness, pain and swelling, with the wrists, fingers, toes, ankles and knees are particularly susceptible.
In very severe cases, they can end up crippled and unable to live a full life.
To see if marital status had an impact on pain, Dr Barsky Reese’s team studied 255 patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
Each one was quizzed on whether they were happily married or regularly fell out with their partners over matters such as finances, lack of affection and their relationship with their in-laws.
A total of 114 reported loving marriages, with 44 admitting they had been having problems.
The remainder were not married.
When they were asked how much pain they were in, scores were lower in the happily married patients, even when researchers allowed for the fact that some had more advanced disease than others.
The researchers said that a loving marriage may make pain easier to bear.
They also acknowledged that severe pain can lead to relationships breaking down and said that some rheumatoid arthritis patients might benefit from marriage counselling.
Professor Cary Cooper, an expert in psychology and health at the University of Lancaster, said the findings backed up earlier research showing patients feel less pain when they are surrounded by loved ones.
‘Science shows that the more social support you have the less likely you are to experience negative stresses which can add to pain.
‘If you are in a bad marriage, then the pain that you feel, whether it is emotional or physical, is going to be greater.’
Last year, a World Health Organisation study revealed marriage could reduce the risk of anxiety and depression, which those tied the knot were much less likely to suffer the blues than those who stayed single.
Other work has shown that married people have a better chance of surviving cancer than those who are separated or divorced and tend to live longer than singletons.
The latter can be at last partly explained by because people who are married taking better care of themselves, perhaps because they feel they have more to live for.