Married and Healthy
Special Report - September 16, 2008
A new study confirms the prevailing wisdom that marriage brings with it better health. Drs. Hui Liu and Debra Umberson published the results of their study, “The Times They Are a Changin’: Marital Status and Health Differentials from 1972 to 2003,” in the September issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. The researchers sought to study whether and how the association between marital status and health has changed over the past 30 years. They relied on self-rated health evaluations of over one million Americans ages 25 to 80 and pooled the data from the National Health Interview Survey from 1972 to 2003. Unlike previous studies, though, this study found a significant increase in the self-reported health status of never-married adults over time, narrowing the gap between the health of never-married and married individuals, particularly men. The researchers propose that this suggests “more minimal benefits of marriage for men’s health now than ever before, relative to never marrying.”
The findings include an increase in the health status of married persons over time, with a significant increase among married women. Previously married persons reported declines in overall health status with the health of the widowed, divorced, and separated worsening over time relative to the married. Specifically, there has been an increase in the adverse effects of marital dissolution, especially on women. These findings reinforce existing data on the health benefits of marriage, which have also showed lower rates of depression, schizophrenia, alcoholism, and suicide amongst married individuals. Researchers use two models to explain the health discrepancies between unmarried and married individuals. The marital resource model argues that the economic and social support benefits of married life are primarily responsible for better health. The stress model focuses on the role of the strain associated with marital dissolution as the primary factor in declining health amongst unmarried individuals.
“This study confirms what we have known all along,” said Matt Lytle, director of research for the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “Marriage is part of the natural order, which means that dissolved marriages lead to ill effects. The benefits of marriagealong with the negative effects of ending marriagesserve as more reasons to protect marriage as a sacred and beneficial institution.”
Copyright © 2008. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.