For centuries scientists around the world have tried to uncover the secrets to health and longevity. Countless studies have been conducted comparing the health of those who are married to those who are single. A lot of data indicates being married is a key to good health; however, recent studies are casting some doubt.
Back in the mid 1800’s a British born doctor helped develop the practice of gathering medical statistics. He did this by showing more unmarried people died from disease than married people did. Doctor William Farr was one of the first medical professionals to suggest that there is a health advantage to marriage. Numerous studies claiming that marriage is good for your health have been published in the world’s leading health journals in the centuries that have followed.
Statistics gathered by the University of Chicago indicate that married men live an average 10 years longer than unmarried men and that married women live 4 years longer than unmarried women. The list below covers some of the reasons outlined in the Chicago study.
Married men engage in less risky behavior
Married couples have twice the resources, which equals less stress
Husbands and wives tend to eat out less/ cook healthier meals
Couples encourage each other to see physicians
Married men and women consume less alcohol and drugs
Married men and women suffer less depression
From 2006 to 2010 the US Department of Health and Human Services ran a national marriage promotion in response to the overwhelming data. The initiative received $150 million each year for projects that focused on reducing divorce and promoting the health benefits of staying married.
Marriage relationship workshops, special counseling sessions and other pro-marriage programs have been developed in the United States, Canada and Europe that uphold the belief that marriage is healthy.
Divorce and Death
The Journal of Health and Social Behavior published a study in 2010 that monitored the marriage and health of 9 thousand men and women in their 50’s and 60’s. When these married people became single again due to divorce or the death of a spouse, they suffered declining health. Twenty per-cent more chronic health problems such as heart disease and diabetes were reported compared to those who were still married. Those who were divorced reported aging less gracefully. They seemed to find it harder walking long distances, exercising and getting up and down stairs.
Some research is now underway to find ways to lower the impact of divorce and death on the body. Researchers are even looking at the connection between nutrition and the stress caused by these types of events.
Challenging the theory
Many psychologists will argue that marriage itself is not a recipe for good health but a “good marriage” is. They‘re theory is that a “bad marriage”; one filled with chaos, arguing and constant stress can lead to more health problems. The idea is that a “happy marriage” is the key to a healthy life.
A study by researchers at the University of Rochester supports this notion. The findings published in the journal, ‘Health Psychology’ suggests marital satisfaction has an impact on survival rates. One example cited in the report involved patients with heart problems. The researchers discovered that happily married men who undergo coronary bypass surgery are 3 times more likely to be living 15 years later, while their unmarried counter- parts are not.