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Are couples who experience marital stress at risk of depression?

The divorce process is often the solution to a marriage that is no longer working. For couples, this could many a number of different things. One couple might find that they no longer agree about how to handle finances while another couple may grow apart relationally. Yet another reason why a couple may choose to file for divorce is marital stress.

Though stress can be an obvious result of a divorce-in-progress, especially when it comes to property division, a study looked at whether stress during a marriage can increase the risk of depression. Researchers focused on the emotional response of the test takers. When the results were published, the author of the study noted that the correlation between depression and marital stress is not necessarily obvious, but is certainly one of importance.

In order to capture the emotional responses, researchers spent 11 years looking at couples - there were 116 “married and cohabitating adults” total. It’s not clear how long each couple had been together at the beginning of the study.

The study had three stages. Researchers first surveyed all the participants, asking them questions about their relationship. The questions specifically delved into topics that involved tension and feelings of disappointment. Each answer was looked at carefully to assess for evidence of depression early on. Then, nearly a decade after the couples were first surveyed, they were asked questions again to identify “marital stress and depression.”

 In the final stage, everyone involved in the study went through an “emotional response test.” From the information in the news article, it seems like they sat and looked at a number of different images. Researchers recorded the time it took for the participant to emotionally respond to the image.

So, does marital stress indicate a higher risk of depression for couples? The results of the study show that the two are related. Those who reported more stress during marriage did not respond to positive images as quickly as those who had less reported marital stress. This does not necessarily mean that everyone who experiences marital stress is depressed, but simply raises an interesting connection between the two.

Source: Huffington Post,” Stressful Marriages Linked To Depression In New Study,” Taryn Hillin, April 28, 2014.

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