INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Valentine’s Day is chocolates, red roses and sweet, sappy cards.
It’s also a time for people to show love and affection for one another.
But, Feb. 14 is not special for all. The holiday is particularly charged for those in rocky relationships with research supporting an association between unhappy couples and poor health.
An article published in the most recent volume of the International Research Journal of Public Health combined several papers to assess the relationship between married couples and health status. Findings show those in unhappy relationships tend to have weakened immunity, are more likely to die from heart disease and are at greater risk for poor mental health.
“Marital quality clearly colors one’s overall sense of well-being and marital distress elevates health risks,” author Abdul Kader Mohiuddin wrote in the article. “Partners in relationships depend on one another for survival and maturation of their relationship.”
When in committed yet strained relationships, the Bangladesh-based researcher says, both partners presented with higher blood pressures and increased levels of the body’s stress hormone, cortisol.
“Relationships take time and effort,” Kimble Richardson, a licensed mental health counselor at Community Health Network, told News 8. “One of the things that make people resilient against stress is being in a happy, committed relationship.”
But if you are in a committed relationship and are unhappy, Richardson said, that significantly contributes to physical and emotional stress.
High blood pressure and high cortisol levels are associated with obesity, diabetes, heart attack, stroke and depression. For example, one study found a “10-fold increase in risk for depression” among unhappy couples. Depression is associated with substance abuse, decreased physical activity and poor nutrition habits.
Another study showed dissatisfied women were more likely to suffer from heart attacks, strokes and heart disease compared to those happily married. Breast and prostate cancer patients tend to have higher immune systems to fight against the disease when a loving, supportive partner is by their side.
Happiness is key to health span, or the percentage of life people spend in good health. Satisfied couples are more likely to have children, higher household incomes and closer relationships with friends and family.
Over 40% of marriages in the United States end in divorce. But it doesn’t have to be that way, Richardson said. Even the most damaged relationships are salvageable. He encourages couples to seek professional help before heading down the dark divorce path.
Should you decide you don’t want to invest in a partner this Valentine’s Day, Richardson recommends spending the holiday loving yourself.
“Take some time for self-care. Be kind to yourself. Do something that is going to be fun and relaxing. It’s a good day to be extra attentive to your own needs.”
Community Health Network offers a 24-hour crisis line, with phone screenings and face-to-face evaluations for psychiatric emergencies. The number is 800-273-8255 or 317-621-5700.