In news that should surprise no one, stressful marriages have been linked to depression. The pseudo-revelation comes from researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with the full study first published in the April edition of the Journal of Psychophysiology.
Over the course of an 11-year period, married participants who did not give in to the urge to file for divorce, but continued in a stressful marriage, were found to develop depression over the same span of time.
At the study’s beginning, participants filled out questionnaires on their level of marital stress. Questions included, “How often do you feel let down by your spouse?” and “How often is your spouse a source of tension?” Researchers also analyzed the parties for symptoms of depression. (NOTE: Half were male participants, half female.)
Nine years from the start date, the subjects were assessed again for marital stress and depression. A final observation followed two years after that, this time with the participants being asked to visit the lab for an “emotional response test,” which consisted of viewing 90 images flashed across a computer screen. Emotional reactions to the images were measured and recorded by the researchers.
Individuals who had opted to avoid divorce papers and stay in their chronically stressful marriages had more trouble responding to “positive stimuli,” indicating depression.
But Does This Depression Mean Divorce?
Not necessarily, notes Constance Ahrons, PhD and professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Southern California (USC). “Depression can lead to other problems,” she said, naming affairs and “giving up” as two of the biggest.
If you and your spouse are experiencing marital stress and the inevitable fallout of depression, it’s important for you both to realize how the stress and depression affect you. (It will likely be in different ways; after all, you are different people.)
Once you know the root of the problem, you can do something about it by seeking professional help. If the marriage is beyond repair, it can still help to cultivate the problem. If you both have a clear understanding of the causes and you’re in agreement that the relationship is over, it can mean filing the divorce forms on your own without the need for a high-priced attorney, and without all the conflict that usually goes along with it.