A Bad Marriage May Have Serious Effects On Your Health

As a single lady who is fairly skeptical about marriage, I found this NY Times Magazine article very enlightening. The long-standing theory is that there are major health benefits for the marrieds of the world—they tend to live longer, healthier lives. But new research is showing that this “marriage benefit” does not extend to those that are unhappily married, divorced, or widowed. It seems to be more about the quality of the relationship than having the relationship itself. I hate to say it—duh! Who feels good in an unhealthy relationship? No one.

After the jump, what some scientific studies have shown about marriage and health.

  • Women in unhappy relationships and women who are divorced but emotionally hung up on their ex-husbands have much weaker immune systems than the women who were in happier relationships or were happily out of them.
  • In the 24 hours after a huge fight, both men and women show a significant decline in immune system functioning.
  • Marital stress can impede the body’s ability to heal. Bodily wounds took about a full day longer to heal in couples who’d had an argument than they did in couples who’d had pleasant conversations. And among couples who exhibited especially high levels of hostility while fighting, the wounds took a full two days longer to heal.
  • One study found that when married people became single again—either by divorce or because of the death of a spouse—they suffer a decline in physical health from which they never fully recover. Both men and women had 20 percent more chronic health issues, like heart disease and diabetes, than those who were still married to their first husband or wife by middle age.
  • Single people are healthier than those who are divorced or widowed. Divorced and widowed people also age less gracefully. Compared with people who stayed married, people in second marriages still had 12 percent more chronic health problems and 19 percent more mobility problems.
  • Marital stress is linked to heart disease in women. Of 300 women who suffered from chest pains, those who reported the highest levels of marital stress were nearly three times as likely to suffer another heart attack or require a bypass. There was no similar correlation between heart disease and marital stress for men.
  • In happy marriages, physical touch from a partner helped regulate negative emotion without the use of your prefrontal cortex, proving that having a partner causes less wear and tear on the brain and body.
  • A study is currently underway to see how marital stress affects the body’s ability to metabolize fats. The researchers believe they will find a positive correlation.

Discuss. [NY Times Magazine]