Participants were regularly measured on levels of cancer-related stress and overall stress, diet, physical activity, general physical functioning, and symptoms and signs of illness.
The results showed that women with good marriages had plenty of advantages, Yang said.
Women in both groups started the study with high and nearly equal levels of cancer-related stress.
"When you're diagnosed, that's devastating for everyone, regardless of the quality of your marriage," Yang said. "But women in good marriages saw steady reductions in their cancer-related stress, while women in distressed marriages had a much slower recovery."
In terms of overall stress, women in distressed marriages saw levels remain stable over the five years, while those in better relationships experienced a steady decline in stress levels.
Women with strong marriages had better dietary habits than those in distressed relationships, and that continued through the course of the study.
Women in strong marriages also maintained adequate levels of physical activity for a longer period of time compared to the women with distressed relationships, whose physical activity dropped steadily.
As far as overall health performance, women in bad relationships saw a significantly slower recovery than did other women. Distressed women also started with significantly higher levels of symptoms and signs of illness compared to women in good relationships, although they recovered over time to the lower levels experienced by the women with good relationships.
Yang said while other studies have looked at how a cancer diagnosis affected the quality of a marriage relationship, this may be the first study to look at how the marital relationship affects long-term recovery from cancer.
She noted that this study found, as did others, that most women do not see a
|Contact: Hae-Chung Yang|
Ohio State University