Written by Lori Lowe
Adults who choose to marry and to stay married can receive many documented physical, mental and economic benefits. I wouldn’t suggest getting married just to cash in on these benefits, mind you, but engaged, cohabitating, and married couples might be happy to know these facts, and those fearful of marriage might find it eases fears.
In the interest of brevity, I will touch on just a few physical benefits of marriage. In a later blog post, I will share some surprising health benefits that married parents also provide to their children. Then, I’ll address the impact of divorce on adults and children.
For the adults:
1) Married people live longer than similar individuals who are single or divorced, even after factoring in income, race and background. (This is true for women, but there’s an even stronger correlation for men.)
2) Men and women who are married have lower rates of substance abuse and alcohol consumption than unmarried individuals, even after controlling for genetic factors and family background.
3) Married individuals have a much lower rate of suicide than those who divorce. Men and women who divorce are tragically twice as likely as married individuals to attempt suicide. Married women have lower rates of suicide than divorced, widowed or never-married women.
4) Married men and women are on average healthier than single, divorced or cohabiting individuals. Researchers don’t know if this is because healthier people get married or because marriage helps them to stay healthier. However, they do know on average married couples live healthier lifestyles, monitor one another’s health and have more wealth, which all probably contribute to better health. A large study of retired individuals showed much less disease and impairment in married individuals than widowed, divorced or cohabiting individuals, after controlling for age, race and sex. A caveat here is that better quality marriages led to better health outcomes! Stress inside or outside a marriage is never good for one’s health.
For me personally, the biggest benefit to married life is having someone to share life’s ups and downs, to share in parenting, and to depend on one another for love and support. So, in addition to physical and psychological benefits, there are obvious emotional benefits for those with strong marriages.
What do you think—is marriage good for your health or is it irrelevant to your wellbeing? Why?
Marital Status and Health: United States, 1999-2002.
Why Marriage Matters, Second Edition by Institute for American Values.
“Mortality Differentials by Marital Status: An International Comparison,” Demography 1990.