FRIDAY, Oct. 29 -- A good marriage helps people with rheumatoid arthritis enjoy better quality of life and experience less pain, a new study suggests.
"There's something about being in a high-quality marriage that seems to buffer a patient's emotional health," said research leader Jennifer Barsky Reese, a postdoctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.
But RA patients in distressed marriages were no better off in terms of quality of life and pain than the unmarried patients she studied.
The report is published in the October issue of The Journal of Pain.
Reese said her study went further than other research that has linked being married to aspects of better health. "What we did was look at both marital status and how the quality of the marriage is related to different health status measures in the patient," such as their perception of pain and physical and psychological disability, she said.
The researchers evaluated 255 adults with RA, a painful and potentially debilitating form of arthritis, for marital adjustment, disease activity and pain. Forty-four were in distressed marriages, 114 not distressed and 97 were unmarried. Their average age was 55.
The participants answered questions about how happy they were in their marriage, and also noted how much they agreed or disagreed in key areas, including finances, demonstrations of affection, sex, philosophy of life and interaction with in-laws.
"Before we controlled for anything [such as disease severity], being in a high-quality marriage is associated with better outcome," she said.
"These findings suggest the links between being married and health depend on the quality of the marriage, not simply whether or not one is married," she said.
When the researchers took into account such factors as age and disease severity, they found that "better mari
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