Why Being Married Can Help Keep Your Blood Sugar Low

Blood sugar levels that exceed normal levels can leave us susceptible to various health conditions. For example, having persistently high blood glucose levels can gradually lead to the development of diabetes and may increase your risk of stroke, nerve or kidney damage, eye damage, heart attack, and more (per Cleveland Clinic). For these reasons, it's important to keep our blood sugar levels in check. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that individuals can do so by eating a fruit and vegetable-rich diet, getting regular exercise, limiting alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy weight, and routinely tracking one's blood glucose levels, amongst other methods.

Now, a new 2023 study published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care suggests another potentially effective method for keeping blood sugar levels in check: romantic partnership. Pulling data from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging, researchers examined the relationship between glycemic levels and marital status, as well as relationship quality, among more than 3,300 adults between the ages of 50 and 89. The data used in the study had been gathered between 2004 and 2013, reports WebMD. At the start of the study, none of the individuals had been diagnosed with diabetes. During a 10-year follow-up period, participants were asked about their relationship status, and whether they had a spouse, partner, or change in their relationship status.

Partnership may help reduce stress and promote healthy habits

Research findings revealed that those who had entered into a marriage or domestic partnership during the course of the decade-long follow-up period had lower blood sugar levels than those who had transitioned out of a relationship, as reported via WebMD. These findings held true regardless of how participants felt about the quality of their relationship.

Specifically, those who had formed a relationship experienced a 0.2% drop in blood sugar (as measured by HbA1c levels) over the course of three months. Conversely, those who were no longer in a relationship experienced an increase in blood sugar levels by 0.2% within a three-month period. The researchers highlight that this 0.2% decrease in HbA1c would equate to 25% fewer excess deaths. No connection was found between relationship status and type 2 diabetes risk in participants (via HealthDay).

Offering a possible explanation for these study outcomes, the researchers suggested that partnership may be a source of social support for couples amid periods of stress (per WebMD). Because stress can impact blood sugar levels, lower levels of stress may help keep blood glucose levels within normal range, via Diabetes UK. Alternatively, if one partner engages in healthy lifestyle habits, such as exercise or maintaining a healthy diet, these behaviors may be adopted by the other partner and may subsequently help keep blood sugar low.