BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Health
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Background Briefings 
Medical notes 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Thursday, 24 May, 2001, 23:29 GMT 00:29 UK
Partner's company 'reduces blood pressure'
Blood pressure
Blood pressure can be influenced by stress
Many people might be sceptical, but research suggests that one of the best ways to keep your blood pressure down is to spend time with your partner.

Scientists have found that when people are with their spouse or significant other their blood pressure often decreases below levels associated with talking to friends or even being alone.

Most interactions with a well-established partner are safe or predictable

Dr Brook Gump
The phenomenon even held good for people who did not have a particularly good relationship with their partner.

The finding may go some way towards explaining previous studies that have shown married people have less heart disease.

A team from the State University of New York at Oswego studied 117 volunteers continuously over six days.

They found that both systolic and diastolic blood pressure measurements were lower during periods of interaction with a partner than during interaction with any other person.

Systolic blood pressure, the first number in a blood pressure reading, refers to the pressure in the arteries during contractions of the heart.


Diastolic, the second number, refers to the pressure in the arteries in between each contraction.

The differences in blood pressure were small, but scientists believe they could still have a significant impact.

Lead researcher Dr Brook Gump said people were more likely to relax in the company of their partner, while they were more likely to be on their guard with others.

He said: "Given that most interactions with a well-established partner are safe or predictable, a partner's presence may act as a classically conditioned safety signal.

"Non-partner interactions, however, because they may occur less frequently and involve greater uncertainty, may be more likely to be associated with a defence reaction or heightened vigilance."

Social support

They also found that periods of talking were associated with a rise in blood pressure, although the increases were smaller when the subjects were with their partner than when talking with someone else.

Belinda Linden, cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "This new study appears to reflect statistics produced by the British Heart Foundation.

"These show that people with work stress, depression or an angry personality or those who lack social support or who are lonely are at a greater risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD).

Our friends also play a big part in helping us to look after our heart health

Cardiac nurse
Belinda Linden
"High blood pressure is a known risk factor for CHD and people who suffer from this condition - for whatever reason - are more to likely to develop CHD and it is therefore important to make sure that blood pressure is well controlled.

"However, a good social support network is probably equally as important as being married or being in a serious relationship, in helping to protect people from CHD.

"Being more active and keeping your weight down can really help us to control our blood pressure.

"But our friends also play a big part in helping us to look after our heart health as a good social life often encourages people to lead an active lifestyle - such as dancing or going to the gym - rather than slumping in front of the TV every night!"

The research is published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

23 Jun 00 | G-I
High blood pressure
28 Sep 99 | Health
Public ignorant on blood pressure
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories