There is an intricate connection between marriage and physical health. Depending on whether you are happily married or unhappily married, the effects will be positive or negative accordingly. Numerous studies have been conducted along these lines, and the scientific findings have been very revealing and surprising in some instances. These findings confirm to a large extent what we all know instinctively at a gut-level: when you are in a good and happy relationship it is good for your general health and wellbeing. And of course the opposite is also true. The key factor is the quality of your relationship.
This article will discuss some of the positive health benefits of a thriving marriage, and some of the negative physical effects of a strained and stressful marriage.
Positive health benefits of a thriving marriage
1. General health
Both men and women who are happily married show signs of better general health than those who are not married, or are widowed or divorced. This can be due to a number of reasons, such as being more careful with diet and exercise, and holding one another accountable. Also, a spouse can notice if you are not yourself or not feeling well and get you to the doctor for a timely check up, thus preventing health issues from becoming more serious. In a thriving marriage, partners look out for each other and help each other to stay healthy physically.
2. Less risky behaviors
Married people tend to think twice before engaging in risky behaviors. Now that you have a spouse, and possibly children, to care and provide for, you need to be more careful and responsible. Bad habits like smoking and excessive drinking or reckless driving are sometimes abandoned for the sake of a loving spouse who encourages his or her partner to strive to be the best that they can be.
Due to the better general health and better lifestyle choices, it is understandable that the longevity of happily married couples is longer than those who are either unhappily married or single. If a couple gets married when they are both still young, the effects of early marriage on health can be either positive or negative, depending on their maturity and commitment to each other. A loving couple who seeks to bring out the best in one another can look forward to a long and fruitful life, enjoying their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren together.
4. Married people age more happily
Happily married couples generally don’t have as much insecurities about aging as unmarried people do. People in happy relationships know that their partners love and care for them, even if they don’t remain as attractive as they once were. Their relationship bond is strong and their physical appearance makes a little difference. Therefore aging is not something that happily married couples frown upon.
5. Recover from ailments more quickly
Another positive effect of marriage is that you always have someone to care for you when you get sick. Couples in happy relationships recover quickly from ailments as they have their partners by their side to take care of them, comfort them, give them medicines, consult the doctor and do whatever is required. The emotional support that strong couples give to each other is also something that helps them get well soon.
Negative physical effects of a stressful marriage
Being in a strained and stressful marriage is not only detrimental to mental health, but this is also where the negative physical effects of marriage on health can be observed.
1. Weakened immune system
The immune system of both men and women tends to take a battering in times of stress, and especially the stress caused by marital conflict. With germ-fighting cells in the body being inhibited, one becomes more vulnerable to diseases and infections. Chronic stress and anxiety in a marriage can be caused by constantly wondering if your partner really loves you, or by having to walk on eggshells around your spouse. This kind of stress takes a serious toll on the T-cells in the immune system which fight off infections, and increases the levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
2. Heart disease rate increases
Women, as well as men, in a stressful or unsatisfying marriage seem to be particularly prone to heart disease. A rise in blood pressure, higher cholesterol levels, and increased body mass indexes all contribute to the risk of heart disease. Cardiovascular health seems to be directly linked to stress levels, and women who are unhappily married seem to be especially affected. This may be due to women’s tendency to internalise their anxiety and stress, which takes a toll on their body and heart, over a prolonged period of time.
3. Diabetes risk increases
Stress in marriage can also be the cause of increased blood sugar levels and the increased risk of developing type two diabetes. Prolonged periods of psychological stress or unresolved conflicts can result in the blood glucose levels being increased over an extended time frame. In such cases the body may not be able to make enough insulin to counteract the extra glucose in the blood system. People who are in a stressful situation may also tend to exercise less and neglect good eating habits.
4. Slower healing from illness or injury
The impairment of the immune system also results in the body taking a longer time to recover when sickness or physical wounding occurs. If there has been surgery, or an accident, the recovery time for a person in a stressful and unhappy marriage would normally be longer than for someone who has a loving spouse to take care of them and encourage the healing process.
5. Harmful habits
For someone who is enmeshed in an unhappy or abusive marriage, the temptation to indulge in harmful habits can be overwhelming. This can be an attempt to alleviate the emotional pain of the failing marriage by taking drugs, smoking or drinking alcohol. These and other negative pursuits are harmful to the health and ultimately add to the stress of the situation. In extreme cases, suicide may even seem to be an option or a means of escape from the unhappy marriage.
The effects of marriage on health can be either advantageous and positive, or detrimental and negative. If you have recognized any of these health concerns discussed above, you may want to consider getting help for your marriage relationship, thereby addressing the root cause, as well as seeking medical attention for the symptoms.