People often think that once they get married, they will live happier ever after. They see married life as the end goal. They picture a fulfilling life with the support of that one special person that they think will make them happy for the rest of their lives. However, a new study shows that it is not just singles who experience stress and depression. In fact, it shows that a stressful marriage can lead to feelings of depression.
The long-term study was done at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and was published in the April 2014 edition of the journal Psychophysiology. The research was led by Richard Davidson, a professor of psychology and psychiatry. He found that chronic marital stress caused people to have less joy from life’s experiences.
Though previous studies have shown that married couples are happier than single people, this study indicates that a stressful marriage can also lead to depression. The study was done in part by the National Institute on Aging, under the direction of Carol Ruff. Graduate student, Regina Lapate, sought to answer the question of how being stressed can change people s reaction to certain events.
The researchers involved with the study asked married participants to answer a questionnaire based on their perceived stress level using a six-point scale. The questionnaire had questions related to how they felt about being criticized by their partners, as well as how often they felt disappointed or their expectations had not been met. At that time, they were also tested for depression.
Approximately nine years later after the initial testing, the participants were retested to see if their answers had changed over time and if their level of depression had changed. Another two years later, they were brought in and tested for their resiliency. Lab tests were used to determine how quickly they could rebound from a negative or stressful outcome. Researchers measured the frowns of participants as they shares a mix of 90 positive, negative and neutral images. They used their analysis of the frowns to determine their level of depression.
Lapate said that this method has been used in determining depression before and it is a better way to assess the mental status of individuals rather than outright asking them how they feel. The result of these tests was shorter responses to the positive images for participants who were in a stressful marriage. This indicates that the depression caused from a stressful marriage makes it harder for individuals to enjoy positive experiences in life.
Davidson’s goal is to help people change their responses to stress since no one is immune to life’s stressful situations. Even in the most perfect marriages, things are bound to come up, but the reaction to the negative experiences can be controlled, possibly through meditation, to improve the rebound time and improve their feelings of happiness. He hopes the research will help relieve depression that is a result from a stressful marriage. Working through life’s daily challenges can help lessen depression, strengthen the marriage and possible prevent divorce.
By Tracy Rose