Marriage makes people healthy. Here’s why and how

The new year is traditionally a time when many people feel a renewed commitment to create healthy habits, such as exercising regularly, drinking more water or eating more healthfully.

It turns out that when it comes to health, married people have an edge, especially married men. But surely the act of walking down the aisle is not what provides this health advantage.

So what exactly is at play?

A study was conducted on how relationships affect health. Different aspects like how social support influences health behaviours, how stress affects couples’ relationships and health and how relationships influence health behaviour changes were studied in the research.

The study also examined how partners influence each other’s health, taking gender into account in this equation.

Happy Indian couple at their wedding.

Health benefits of marriage, for men and women

It’s important to note that most marriage and health studies have been limited to married men and women.

But more recent studies are examining these relationships in partners who have the same gender identity, the same biological sex and who are gender diverse.

One theory that seeks to explain the link between marriage and health is the act of self-selection.

Simply put, people who are wealthier and healthier than average are more likely not only to get married but also to find a partner who is wealthier and healthier than average.

Men and women with poorer health and wealth than average are less likely to marry at all.

While this may be part of the story, marriage also provides partners with a sense of belonging, more opportunities for social engagement and reduced feelings of loneliness.

This social integration, or the extent to which people participate in social relationships and activities, can greatly influence health – from reducing the risk of hypertension and heart disease to lowering one’s risk of death or suicide.

 

close up of Hands of an Indian Bride, tattooed with natural and local dye, Mehndi or Henna during a Hindu wedding ceremony.

Another important connection between marriage and health involves the body’s inflammatory process.

Research links loneliness and lack of close relationships with inflammation, or the body’s way of reacting to illness, injury or disease.

Though inflammation is needed for healing, chronic inflammation is associated with heart disease, arthritis, cancers and autoimmune diseases.

While single adults undoubtedly have very meaningful close relationships too, a healthy marriage by nature provides more opportunities for closeness and socialization, supporting the link between marriage and inflammation.

When you dig deeper, gender seems to play a role as well. One study related to marital quality, gender and inflammation found a connection between lower levels of spousal support and higher levels of inflammation for women, but not men.

In another study, if couples used negative communication patterns, such as one partner making demands while the other partner withdraws, women but not men experienced heightened inflammation.

Beautiful photo of a Newly Married Indian Couple holding hands and promising each other for living together merrily for all their life.

Marriage and longevity

Married men and married women live, on average, two years longer than their unmarried counterparts. One reason for this longevity benefit is the influence of marital partners on healthy behaviours.

However, men married to women tend to see additional longevity benefits than women married to men, for several possible reasons.

For example, female spouses may be looking out for their male partners, reinforcing healthy behaviours and providing more opportunities for healthy choices.

On the flip side, married men are less likely to attempt to influence their wives’ health behaviours.

Women tend to take the lead in promoting healthy behaviours, benefiting their husbands. Data suggests that men and women in same-gender relationships tend to engage in teamwork to mutually promote positive health behaviours.

 

This can include increased risk of metabolic syndrome, inflammation and cardiovascular disease.

Does this mean that all men should get married to protect their health or that unmarried people can’t enjoy the same health benefits as those who have said “I do”?

Not at all. Unmarried people can, of course, enjoy good health and longevity. Creating and maintaining strong social ties and engaging with one’s community go a long way when it comes to health.

Further, making the best lifestyle choices available, seeking preventive health care and reducing stress can help everyone live a longer, healthier life.

(This article is syndicated by PTI from The Conversation)
Credits – indiatimes.com
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