Does Marriage Have the Same Effect on the Health of Men and Women?
There are many benefits to tying the knot. From health insurance to tax benefits, married couples enjoy some perks that non-married couples don’t.
But there’s another rumored benefit of marriage that might be more valuable than financial savings: Health benefits.
Marriage is often touted as being beneficial for your health, but is that true? And do men and women benefit equally?
Healthier married men
Yes, there is some truth behind the thought that marriage can actually make you healthier – but it’s specific to married men. A survey of 127,545 American adults focused on how marriage may affect health and resulted in surprising findings. According to the study, married men are healthier than men who were divorced, widowed, or never married. Additional findings included:
- Married men live longer than men without spouses
- Men who get married after age 25 enjoyed more health benefits than men who married younger than 25
- The longer a man is married, the greater the chance of him outliving other unmarried men
The problem is, it’s difficult to tell whether marriage alone is responsible for these health benefits. There appears to be a clear correlation between marriage and improved health for men, but other factors may be at work.
For instance, married men are less likely to be lonely than unmarried men, and loneliness can be detrimental to health.
It’s also possible that married men stay more active and even eat better than unmarried men, which could also contribute to their health.
When married, spouses likely encourage each other to go to the doctor more often, and it’s less likely for someone to brush over a persistent health issue.
Risky behavior also often decreases when men tie the knot, and married couples often benefit from a higher standard of living than they would enjoy if they were single.
Unhealthier married women
Do married women enjoy the same effects as married men? Unfortunately, research indicates the opposite effect. According to a study by University College London, the London School of Economics, and The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, married women don’t enjoy the same health benefits that marriage seems to give to men.
The study found that not marrying is less detrimental to women than it is to men.
Middle-aged women who never married had almost the same chance of developing metabolic syndrome as married women did.
These unmarried women had a far lower risk of developing breathing problems or heart issues than unmarried men.
What about divorce?
The study referenced above found that divorce didn’t impact future health for divorced men or women as long as they found a new long-term partner. Though previous research had found that men experienced a health decline after divorcing, this new study reveals that men’s long-term health seems to improve back to what it was before they divorced.
As for unhappy marriages? They can have negative effects on your health, too. A British study of 9,011 civil servants found a connection between stressful marriages and a 34% increase in the risk of heart attacks.
What this means for marriage
Should these study results play a role in your decision to get married? Not really. Keep in mind that no one really knows the exact factors of being married that are affecting health. And while health benefits were seen in many study participants, there are most certainly people who don’t enjoy the same benefits that have been seen in some study participants. Health shouldn’t be a governing factor in your decision to get married.
If you want to get married, benefits such as having a loving long-term partner and a commitment to each other far outweigh the fact that marriage may affect your health.
Marry because you love your partner, and follow your own personal reasons for marrying your loved one.
What you should do, though, is prioritize your health. This doesn’t mean just focusing on dieting so you look great for the wedding – instead, make getting healthy your long-term goal. From diet and exercise to going to the doctor regularly and getting recommended screenings, there are many ways that you can increase your overall health while decreasing your risk of health issues like cardiovascular problems.
Marriage can provide a great incentive to get healthier since you’ll have a partner by your side. Get your spouse involved in the process, whether you rely on them for encouragement or they decide to make healthier lifestyle changes with you.
When you’ve found the right partner, then marriage can be a wonderful and life-changing event. Your best bet? Don’t focus on the health benefits or other potential benefits of marriage. Instead, get married because it feels right and because both you and your partner want to get married.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.