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Nagging wives help improve their husband's health, study finds

[July 27, 2022: Staff Writer, The Brighter Side of News]

The study challenges the traditional assumption that negative marital quality is always detrimental to health. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)

For men, an unhappy marriage may actually slow the development of diabetes and promote successful treatment once they do get the disease, finds a national study led by a Michigan State University sociologist.

Why? It may be because wives are constantly regulating their husband’s health behaviors, especially if he is in poor health or diabetic. And while this may improve the husband’s health, it also can be seen as annoying and provoke hostility and emotional distress.


“The study challenges the traditional assumption that negative marital quality is always detrimental to health,” said Hui Liu, MSU associate professor of sociology and lead investigator of the federally funded research. “It also encourages family scholars to distinguish different sources and types of marital quality. Sometimes, nagging is caring.”

“Since diabetes is affected by social factors, I thought it would be interesting to see how marriage affects the disease rate,” she said. “For women, consistent with expectations, good marital quality promotes women’s health. It lowers their risk of disease.”


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Using data from the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project, Liu and colleagues analyzed survey results from 1,228 married respondents over five years. At the onset of the study, the respondents were 57 to 85 years old; 389 had diabetes at the end of the study.

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. More than 29 million Americans had diabetes in 2012, or 9.3 percent of the population.

Liu, an expert in population-based health and family science, investigated the role of marital quality in diabetes risk and management and found two major gender differences:


*The most surprising finding was that, for men, an increase in negative marital quality lowered the risk of developing diabetes and increased the chances of managing the disease after its onset. Diabetes requires frequent monitoring that the wives could be prodding the husband to do, boosting his health but also increasing marital strain over time.

*For women, a good marriage was related to a lower risk of being diabetic five years later. Women may be more sensitive than men to the quality of a relationship and thus more likely to experience a health boost from a good-quality relationship, Liu said.

“Since diabetes is the fastest growing chronic condition in the United States, implementation of public policies and programs designed to promote marital quality should also reduce the risk of diabetes and promote health and longevity, especially for women at older ages,” the study says.

The study, published online in the Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences, was co-authored by Shannon Shen, an MSU graduate, and Linda Waite, professor at the University of Chicago.


Nagging Wife, Happy Life - A relationship experts perspective

“I don’t agree that nagging means unhappiness.”

So says relationship expert Dr. Karen Ruskin, Psy.D., and a licensed marriage and family therapist who has a practice in Sharon, Massachusetts.

“On the other hand, nagging may mean the wife is on top of things in the home,” Ruskin said. “Women often take on the job of home management [and] men may label wives’ repetitive requests as nagging.”

But the women’s remarks may be an expression of how much they care about their husbands, as well as their frustration if he is uncooperative, she said.

“We are helping our men to live longer,” explained Ruskin, author of “Dr. Karen's Marriage Manual.” “Some men will take care of themselves on their own.”


Others need help.

Is there a better way? Ruskin laughed

“The way we communicate, that takes two people,” she said.

In part this is an issue of perspective. Ruskin suggests changing the lens with which one perceives communication.

“If your mate views [your suggestions] through a lens of care, they won’t perceive it as nagging,” she said.

There’s a desire for relational survival.


“If a woman starts by saying, ‘I care about you so much that I want you to be healthy,’ the discussion may not deteriorate. You are being mindful of their health and wellness,” she said. “If you preface your desire with a love statement, your mate may hear you through that lens of love and care.”

For more science news stories check out our New Discoveries section at The Brighter Side of News.


Note: Materials provided above by The Brighter Side of News. Content may be edited for style and length.


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