Conventional wisdom suggests that married people live longer and tend to be healthier than those who are unmarried. Well, the fact is now backed by some scientific research. Forget the gym, according to this study conducted by the University of Missouri, the secret to a healthy life lies not on the treadmill, but on the state of your marriage.
Having analyzed the data from over 700 married couples, Christine Proulx, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri, was able to conclude that blissful happy couples were more likely to be healthier as they grew older. According to Prolux:
“We often think about the aging process as something we can treat medically with a pill or more exercise, but working on your marriage also might benefit your health as you age. Engaging with your spouse is not going to cure cancer, but building stronger relationships can improve both people’s spirits and well-being and lower their stress.”
The studies have made it apparent that as the quality of marriage continues to remain steady over time, so does physical health. And on the contrary, if your marriage is unhappy, your physical health suffers as a result.
What makes healthy marriages good for your health?
Marriages lower the risk of violence: Marriage lowers the risk of becoming victims of violence for both men and women. A 1994 Justice Department report, based on the National Crime Victimization Survey, found that single and divorced women were four to five times more likely to be victims of violence in any given year than wives; bachelors were four times more likely to be violent-crime victims than husbands.
Social Connection: If you are married, your spouse is (ideally), your closest relative. Which means that there is always somebody around to provide comfort and support when you need it. This is especially true for happily married couples.
On the contrary, singles (or couples whose marriage is on the rocks), tend to be lonelier and and may end up being socially isolated. This can lead to depression and poor mental and physical health.
Better Finances: Marriage is a productive institution. In fact, according to a study, an American married male can make up to 40 percent more money as compared to single guys. Staying in a marriage longer also translates into higher marriage premium. And it's not just the males, women also receive an earning boost from marriage, although it declines when they get pregnant and become mothers.
Another aspect to look at, is managing the finances. Married couples not only make more money, but they also happen to manage it better together than they would have done had they been alone. At similar income levels, for example, the chances of a married couple reporting “economic troubles” or problems paying bills is much lower. Needless to say, the longer you stay married, the more assets you build together.
Your spouse is your health booster: Believe it or not, your spouse can be a big influence on your own personal habits. A supporting partner will often tell you things like “you shouldn’t be eating that”, or, “you should be working out more often”. The love and support you receive from a caring partner motivates you to take better care of yourself and vice versa.
An unhappy relationship can be detrimental to your health goals and may even prevent you from having the desire of taking care of yourself. Also, people in healthy relationships are more likely to adhere to their doctor’s advice and recommendations.
Better stress management: Life is tough and is bound to throw up stressful moments. Be it work related, or due to family issues, there are going to be times when you inevitably end up being worked up. And stress is quite possibly the worst health hazard in modern times.
It’s a known fact that prolonged stress is the prime cause of increased cortisol levels, that can interfere with the body's ability to control inflammation, and thus leading to the advent of other diseases.
Researchers, however, have found that happily married couples tend to have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol as opposed to single individuals. These findings seem to support the idea that singles face more psychological stress as compared to married individuals.
There is no question that having a caring and understanding partner can make a world of difference. Not only does sharing it with someone close to you help ease the stress, it also improves the chances of finding a solution to the problem.
So, how healthy is your marriage? Do you really know how to measure the quality of a marriage? Well, although there is no “benchmark” for it, you could start by looking at it in a couple of ways:
In terms of happiness and satisfaction (How happy do you feel in each other’s company? How often do you spend quality time together?)
In terms of marital issues (Do you argue about your friends or in-laws? Do you fight over money?)
Although inevitably there are going to be moments of relationship stress in even the happiest of marriages, what’s important is to use these moments as an opportunity to repair the relationship and make it even stronger as opposed to damaging it. Since your marriage is the most important relationship in your life, a disagreement really only means that it is a signal that some things need fixing.