Joanne Major, Principal and Collaborative lawyer of Major Family Law, Newcastle’s best divorce and family law specialist solicitors, comments in the Luxe Magazine results of a recent study have been published by the American Journal of Public Health which compares the effects on physical health of being married as opposed to living together or being single.
Just the very posing of the question is likely to elicit a range of responses according to personal relationship experience, but there is no shortage of studies which endorse the institution of marriage for enhancing health and happiness.
Our own Office for National Statistics issued figures showing that “married couples live longer and are happier and healthier”.
Those amongst us with more cynical tendencies may suggest that statements such as these are simply an ongoing programme of propaganda to reinforce a centuries old institution, but this latest in-depth study sought to study not only married couples, but those who chose to live together without marrying.
Based on extensive studies from British subjects over a prolonged period of time, the results suggest that there is no material difference in terms of impact on personal physical health between those who are married and those who choose to cohabit, whereas noticeable differences were found when comparing those who married or cohabited and those who remained single, although interestingly, the results also seemed to show that this was more the case in men than women.
Men’s health was found to decline after divorce, but recovered if they remarried, although if they divorced in their late 30’s, they were less likely to suffer poor resulting health. Dr George Ploubidis of University College London has gone so far as to say, “Not marrying or cohabiting is less detrimental among women than men. Being married appears to be more beneficial for men”.
No doubt many women would have very clear theories on why this is, particularly if they feel they have spent the “best years of their lives” running around, picking up after their own husband, and certainly historically, there are plenty of reports which support the proposition that wives encourage their husbands to keep fit, to eat properly and to visit the doctor when feeling ill (something we all know men are notoriously bad at!)
Other scientists found that not being married or in a committed cohabiting relationship can reduce life expectancy, suggesting that those who don’t have a partner are more likely to skip breakfast, eat unhealthy meals – often on the go – work long hours, and spend excessive time drinking in the pub. Cue much exaggerated eye rolling from female readers!
In the same way, previous studies suggest that in terms of women, they feel a significant benefit from marriage on an emotional level because they value being in a relationship. In the wider psychological spectrum, studies have shown that married couples suffer less depression and fewer mental problems: A US study concluded that mental health improves consistently and materially after marriage and deteriorates notably after divorce or separation. The World Health Organisation published findings that marriage could reduce the risk of anxiety and depression and that those who married were much less likely to suffer from mental health issues than those who remained single.
If it does go wrong, however, the most recent research has shown that getting divorced has no harmful impact on future health in either men or women as long as they found a new long-term partner.
So there you have it: despite all the reports and statistics pertaining to the divorce rate, it is officially better for you to be married, even in the 21st century!