People who are married, whether happily or unhappily, may be at lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, a study has suggested.
New research has examined whether being married or living with a partner helps keep blood sugar levels under control, particularly in older people.
Previous studies have found that happy marriages are linked to a range of health benefits compared to being single, including a longer life, fewer strokes and heart attacks, less depression and healthier eating.
The new study, conducted by experts from the University of Luxembourg and the University of Ottawa in Canada, found that the benefits of marriage on blood sugar levels hold true regardless of whether the relationship was happy or under strain.
Researchers examined data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing on 3,335 adults, aged 50 to 89, who did not have diabetes at the start of the study.
They published their findings in the journal BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care.
The study included data gathered from blood samples, which measured HbA1c (average blood glucose) levels.
People were asked if they had a husband, wife, or partner with whom they lived, and were asked questions to examine the level of strain and support within the relationship.
The data showed that 76 per cent of people in the analysis were married or living together.
Researchers found that the quality of the relationship did not make a significant difference to the average levels of blood glucose, suggesting that having a supportive or strained relationship was less important than just having a relationship at all.
They concluded: “Overall, our results suggested that marital/cohabitating relationships were inversely related to HbA1c levels regardless of dimensions of spousal support or strain.
“Likewise, these relationships appeared to have a protective effect against HbA1c levels above the pre-diabetes threshold.”
According to Diabetes UK, more than 4.9 million people in the UK have diabetes. Some 850,000 people are living with Type 2 diabetes, but are undiagnosed.
Last year, a study suggested that a happy marriage does matter in helping heart attack patients recover faster.
Scientists at Yale University found that having a harmonious relationship may reduce chances of hospital readmission and chest pain in younger patients, whereas having a tense relationship has negative effects on recovery.
Additional reporting by PA