Are married people generally healthier?
Do married people actually live healthier? According to a study, experts are now claiming that marriage does improve general health. But it is important that the marriage works well. The researchers found that married people have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol compared to unmarried people or divorced spouses.
Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University found in a study that married people generally carry less of the stress hormone cortisol in themselves. This leads to improved health for those affected because they are more effectively protected against psychological stress. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Psychoneuroendocrinology".
Study examines 572 adult subjects
The results of the study are quite exciting and interesting, say the experts. They could be a physiological reason that relationships improve health and prevent disease, says author Dr. Brian Chin from Carnegie Mellon University. For their study, the researchers took saliva samples from 572 adult volunteers between the ages of 21 and 55. The participants were either single, married or previously married. The saliva samples were taken over a period of 24 hours on three non-consecutive days, the doctors add.
Married people have faster decreases in cortisol
The results of the study showed that married people had lower cortisol levels compared to singles and divorced people, the scientists explain. Married people showed faster so-called cortisol decreases during the day. Such hormonal patterns have been associated with improved health effects.
A high cortisol level leads to considerable health problems
It is well researched that people with lower levels of cortisol are generally healthier, the researchers say. High cortisol levels promote inflammation, which in turn can increase the risk of a variety of health problems, including heart disease, autoimmune diseases, and depression.
Study shows general health benefits of social support in marriage
These and other results suggest that there is a connection between marriage and good health and mental well-being, the researchers explain. The study appears to show the general health benefits of social support from living together in a marriage. But does this also mean that the institution of marriage gives special health benefits?
Study does not examine the difference between married and long-lived couples
However, the study shows only a correlation, no causality, the authors say. It is possible that the improved health among married people simply reflects the fact that healthier people marry more often. In addition, the results do not take into account the differences between married couples and long-term cohabiting couples.
Marital disputes can be more harmful than stress at work
During a happy marriage, it is likely that overall health will be positively supported. But we shouldn't forget that many marriages don't go that way, the doctors say. Bad marriages are very common and can be linked to poorer health. For example, a study from 2010 found that family stress can contribute to poor immune function and high blood pressure. Marital disputes can be worse for your health than stress at work, experts suspect. The health effects of marital stress are comparable to those of traditional risk factors such as smoking and a sedentary lifestyle, the doctors add.
The decisive factor is the quality of the relationship
What can the bottom line now be said about the health effects of marriage? Well-running and harmonious marriages are good for you and your health. However, a generalized statement that married people are generally healthier is only fiction, the authors explain. Just because people are married doesn't automatically give them a stress-free and healthy life. The quality of the relationship is really important, regardless of whether you are married or not, the experts add. (as)