From: David A Gabel, ENN
Published August 22, 2011 09:44 AM

Study: A Happy Marriage Can Boost Health and Survivability

A very interesting study has recently come out of the University of Rochester, showing that married adults reap increased health benefits than their unmarried counterparts. Women in particular thrive when in a happy marriage. For men, any kind of marriage will do. To prove their theory, researchers observed individuals who underwent coronary bypass surgery. The happily married were over three times more likely to still be alive after 15 years.


According to co-author of the study, Harry Reis, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, the effects of marital satisfaction is every bit as powerful in surviving bypass surgery as other factors such as tobacco use, high blood pressure, and obesity. Lead author of the study, Kathleen King, professor emerita at the University of Rochester, stated, "There is something in a good relationship that helps people stay on track."

The health benefits of marriage differ between men and women. The married man tends to live longer than the unmarried man. Perhaps it is the pressure of having others depend on you that will keep a man from harming himself by taking unnecessary risks. Or maybe having a women around to care for them, eating healthy meals and grooming, add years on to life. The study found that survivability rates increases slightly with the happiness of the marriage.

The married women also reaps a tremendous health reward from being married, however, the quality of the marriage is much more important. A woman who is stuck in a bad union will reap no health bonus from being married. On the other hand, a satisfying union will increase the woman's survival rate fourfold. Perhaps it is the stress from an unhealthy marriage that negates the health benefits of being married. Whatever the reason, the payoff for marital bliss is extremely high, much higher than for men.

Lead author, Kathleen King, explains it this way. Supportive spouses likely help by encouraging healthy behavior like eating right, exercising more, and quitting smoking. A healthy marriage also provides spouses with the motivation to keep on living so not to leave the other one. This is a powerful reason to increase care for oneself.

The study used the example of adults who have survived coronary bypass surgery. In total, 225 patients were tracked who had the surgery between 1987 and 1990. The married patients were asked to rate their marriage satisfaction. After adjusting for other factors like age, education, tobacco use, depression, etc. the researchers came to the following results.

Fifteen years after surgery, 83 percent of happily wedded wives were still alive versus 28 percent of women in unhappy marriages and 27 percent of unmarried women. For men, also 83 percent of happily married husbands were alive after 15 years. Men in unhappy marriages were at 60 percent survivability and 36 percent for unmarried men.

The study has been published in the journal Health Psychology.

Link to journal:

Photo credit: Kathy Gabel Alexander

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