"Growing evidence suggests that the quality and patterns of one's social relationships may be linked with a variety of health outcomes, including heart disease," said Thomas Kamarck, Professor of Psychology at University of Pittsburgh in US.

"The contribution of this study is in showing that these sorts of links may be observed even during the earliest stages of plaque development," Kamarck added.

Those in unhappy marital interactions may have an 8.5 percent greater risk of suffering heart attack or stroke than those with a surfeit of good feelings, the findings showed.

The study included 281 healthy, employed, middle-aged adults who were married or living with a partner in a marital-like relationship.

Their interactions were monitored hourly over the course of four days, with the partners rating their interactions as positive or negative.

Carotid artery thickness was also measured. Those partners reporting more negative interactions were found to have thicker carotids.

The study appeared in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.


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