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Can marital tension lead to depression?

It's no secret that stressful marriages can wear people down. Indeed, marriages take a great deal of work, even with good marriages. But when the relationship becomes difficult to manage, stressful marriages can leave people depressed.

According to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, marital stress can leave spouses more vulnerable to depression. 

Researchers followed more than 100 married and cohabitating couples over a period of 11 years. When the study began, the couples completed questionnaires indicating their respective stress levels, how often they felt down by their spouses and how often their spouses were a source of tension. They were also analyzed for symptoms of depression.

Nine years later, the couples were tested for marital stress and depression once again. After another two years, they were subjected to an "emotional response test" that involved flashing images on a screen to determine how they responded to positive stimuli. Essentially, the couples who had lived in contentious or stressful marriages were more apt to be depressed.

The story and research are important because family court judges in Texas review a number of factors when determining whether to award spousal support. Basically, if a spouse is suffering from mental illness due to extensive stress, and may not be able to work, this may be taken into consideration. The same may apply to decisions on child custody and parenting time. If it is determined that a child's best interests are not served by a parent who is suffering from severe mental illness, parenting time and legal custody may be restricted or even be supervised. 

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