As if the singles of the world needed one more reason to look for love, recent research reveals that married people are healthier than singles – for a variety of reasons. But before you go hitching your wagon to the first star that comes along (even if they actually belong in someone else’s sky), consider this: the studies make one very interesting distinction. The health benefits only apply in marriages described as “happy.”
Why marriage is good for you
Most of the health benefits now proven to be associated with marriage are directly related to stress and how our bodies cope with it. While men seem to benefit more from the calm a steady partner brings into their lives, there is evidence that both sexes enjoy quieter pain centers in the brain and increased cortisol production when in the company of a spouse – making bumps in the road (of all sizes and varieties) easier to manage.
In fact, studies of the brains of married people and singles indicate that husbands and wives actually function like each other’s painkillers in times of external stress – which applies to both physical danger/harm and daily events that are emotionally or mentally taxing. Men, in particular, experience a reduction of everyday stress when in the presence of their wives. Women, on the other hand, fear physical pain less when in physical proximity to their husbands.
Other health benefits of marriage (including prolonged lives), require less scientific research to decode – they just require logic. Married people on the average smoke and drink less than singles, which automatically benefits their health. Likewise, they tend to eat better – or at least more. In fact, the one negative impact marriage has been shown to have on health is more likelihood to become overweight. This tendency is more prevalent in men, whose risk of packing on the pounds increases by 20% once they say “I do.” On the upside, however, men report their wives are far more likely to notice changes in their health than they are and make them do something about it. In other words, married men are much more likely to get regular medical check-ups than singles, thereby nipping any problems that do arise in the bud – before they really take hold – thanks to their partner’s intervention.
While the benefits of marriage to physical well-being seem undeniable at this point, the one caveat doctors and scientists were careful to include in their reports is a distinction between marriages described as “happy” versus those described as “unhappy.” In women, especially, this differentiation made a very big difference. For instance, in one study conducted over the course of two decades, married men – regardless of how they described their partnership -.proved 25% less likely to get cancer than single men. The same test, however, conducted with women, showed no marked difference between marrieds and singles – unless the married women described their marriage as satisfying, in which case they benefited similarly to married men.
In fact, research has shown that the stress of an unhappy marriage can actually reverse the benefits of a happy one. In other words, marry the wrong person – or co-exist without working through your problems, and you’re actually apt to be less healthy than a happy singleton.
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