The conversations of life

Does marriage make you healthier? Not any more, this study says


It’s one of the oldest theories around – married people tend to be healthier than their single counterparts.

Previous studies have linked marriage to a longer lifespan, fewer hearts attacks and strokes and lower risk of depression (though sadly also to an increased risk of weight gain).

Now a new study says that link no longer exists at all.

The only married people now to benefit health-wise from marriage were older women in relationships that had lasted more than ten years.

The women in the youngest cohort received zero benefits.

The research – which compared 12,373 men and women born between 1955-1964, 1965-1974, and 1975-1984 who had either never been married or were in a first marriage – showed that while older generations saw their overall health improve with marriage, this effect has declined over time.

Women no longer dependent on others

So why is this the case?

The researchers blame changing social and cultural trends that may have “undermined the protective effects of marriage” including people tying the knot later in life and more never marrying at all.

They say the reason that women may have seen health improvements in marriage in the past was because it gave them a level of economic security they can now achieve on their own.

Lead author sociologist Dmitry Tumin also speculates that marriage itself has become more stressful.

“Against a backdrop of greater demands at home and at work, and less time spent together, today’s married couples may indeed experience marriage more as a source of conflict and stress than as a resource that safeguards their health,” he said.

Still, the researchers say more work is needed so don’t ditch the spouse yet – maybe just keep an eye on the waistline.

With a background in nursing, Annie has spent over 20 years working in the health industry, including the coordination of medical support for international TV productions and major stadium events, plus education campaigns with a number of national health organisations. In recent years, she has also taken time out of the workforce to be a full-time carer, giving her first-hand experience of the challenges and rewards of this role.

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