How Your May Marriage Lead to Better Health

In the struggle to contain spiraling health care costs, both government officials and medical experts put the blame on similar things, including the increasing rate of overweight and obesity, smoking, alcohol use and dangerous driving. But one factor that leads to good health is often overlooked: a wedding ring.

In a recent study completed by Indiana and Arizona State Universities, researchers examined Americans’ health behaviors in response to the economic downturn of 2008. The researchers focused on five healthy behaviors: checking the ingredients label when buying food, choosing foods to eat based on health value, vigorous exercise regularly, abstaining for cigarettes, and regularly using seat belts when driving. The researchers probed data collected in 2005 and again in 2011 from 3,984 mid-life Americans.

The overall results were good: “participants demonstrated higher levels of all five health behaviors after the economic downturn as compared to their pre-recession levels.” However, when researchers looked even more closely at the data, they found something surprising: “those who were married… were more likely to engage in all five healthy behaviors” than their unmarried peers.

The importance of marriage in fostering good health habits also was clear in a 2014 study completed by an international team from five universities (Harvard, University College London, Kings College London, University of Manchester, and Tohoku University of Sendai, Japan). Like the authors of the Indiana-Arizona study, the international team investigated the social context for smoking and regular exercise, but they also looked at visiting the dentist regularly and controlling alcohol consumption.

Like the Indiana-Arizona State scholars, the international team responsible for the 2014 study soon found the connection between intact marriage as a predictor of beneficial health practices and a protection against harmful practices.  

The researchers conclude that the men and women in their study who were “married or living with a partner . . . were more likely to report at least moderate physical activity, to have been seen by a dentist and to be non-smokers in the bi-variate analyses” than were peers who were unmarried and living alone.  The analysis also indicates that “heavy drinking was also more prevalent among those not living with a partner” than it was among those who were married or living with a partner.

If you’re dating a commitment-phobe, it might pay to show him some of the studies on marriage and health. Who knows… soon you could be toasting to a long (and healthy) life together!

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Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of Jes Leslie