Is Marriage Good for Your Health?
By Amber Greviskes Apr 15th 2010 4:40PM
Marriage isn’t for everyone, but there are some health benefits for those who choose to tie the knot. Overall, happily married people tend to live longer and are healthier than their single counterparts.
However, while both men and women tend to benefit from marriage, the specific health rewards they reap are often quite different, says Linda Waite, Ph.D., of the University of Chicago, who wrote “The Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier and Better Off Financially.” Furthermore, in the case of some health conditions, marriage isn’t the quite the health boon at all.
Read on to find out how marriage affects your health:
Pro: Married Women Stress Less
Women who are happily married can get rid of their workday stress more easily than those who are not married, according to researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles. Researchers took samples of saliva from men and women four times a day to test their cortisol levels. Cortisol, a stress hormone, dropped when women in happy marriages returned home at the end of stressful days. Women who were less happily married showed a flatter daily pattern of cortisol release, suggesting that they don’t rebound from stressful events as well as their happily married peers.
Con: Married Women Gain Weight
Women who live with a significant other adapt their partner’s eating patterns, making them more likely to gain weight, according to a new study. The study found that a 140-pound woman gained 20 pounds in 10 years on average if she had a live-in partner and a child but only 15 pounds if she had a partner and no kids. Singletons put on only 11 pounds.
Pro: Married Men Are Less Likely to Have Strokes
A recent Tel Aviv University study, based on 10,000 individuals, suggests that happy marriages may help prevent fatal strokes in men. Single men had a 64 percent higher risk of a fatal stroke than married men. If those marriages weren’t happy, though, the benefit disappeared.
Con: Heart Disease Risk Increases for Both Sexes in Bad Marriages
The risk of heart disease can actually go up if you’re in a bad marriage or experiencing other close relationships marked by negativity, said Roberto De Vogli, whose study on the effects of bad marriage on heart disease in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Those in negative relationships were 34 percent more likely to have a heart problems than those who were in happy marriages.
Pro: Married Men and Women are Less Likely to Develop Dementia
Middle-aged people who live alone are twice as likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease than those who are married or cohabit, while those who have widowed or divorced midlife carry three times the risk, according to a study led by Miia Kivipelto from the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet.
Con: Fighting Makes Both Partners Suffer, Especially Women
Couples who argue may be making themselves sick, according to a study conducted at Ohio State University Medical Center. Arguments filled with sarcasm, put-downs, nastiness and dismissals can weaken each individual’s immune system, making men and women more likely to get sick. Women are more at risk than their husbands.
Pro: In Happy Marriages, Both Sexes Have Lower Blood Pressure
Married men and women also have lower blood pressure than singletons, according to a Brigham Young University study. Having great social support systems didn’t help those who were not partnered.
Pro: Marriage Keeps Depression at Bay
Marriage, which provides social and emotional support, reduces depression and anxiety. However, researchers aren’t sure whether that’s because those who get and stayed married are less likely to be depressed or because marriage improves their mental health. Other studies show that those who are already depressed get a psychological boost from marriage, even if their marriage doesn’t last, according to a study in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.