Most people know that eating well and exercising regularly leads to better health. What some people may not know, however, is that marriage is also good for their health. And its benefits extend across gender, race, and income levels. Furthermore, both married adults and children from married-parent families are more likely to have good health.
Good health is important to everyone’s quality of life. And in the current debate about improving health outcomes without raising costs, it’s good to know that we can look somewhere other than government for factors that can help improve Americans’ health outcomes.
According to a variety of research studies, married individuals more frequently report “excellent or very good” health than do their never-married, divorced, or widowed counterparts. And it isn’t just living with a romantic partner that is indicative of well-being. Married couples also report better health than their peers who are simply cohabiting (living with a boyfriend or girlfriend).
So what are these health benefits? A longer life is not the least of them. A report by the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center notes that men and women who are currently married at the age of 48 have a significantly increased chance of living until age 65. A divorced man has a 65 percent chance of living until age 65, while a married man has a 90 percent chance. While 80 percent of never-married women would be expected to live until age 65, 95 percent of married women would be expected to live that long.
Part of the reason for increased longevity is the decrease in risky behaviors when people marry, such as reduced rates of alcohol abuse and sexual promiscuity. Furthermore, men report increases in positive health behaviors when they wed.
Thus, it should come as no surprise that married men say that they experience decreases in physical symptoms compared to their single peers. While the health benefits of marriage for women aren’t quite as immediate, they do come with the duration of the marriage. Additionally, both men and women report better psychological health.
As couples grow older, marriage appears to be even more vital to health. Over 75 percent of elderly adults who are still married say they have good or excellent health, and they are less likely than their peers to report limitations in their “activities of daily living.”
And children benefit, too. Not only are children raised in married homes more likely to be healthier growing up, but as adults they report better health and live longer.
In an age of cost constraints, it’s good to know that civil society can contribute to better health outcomes. Strong marriages can be a part of solving today’s health care challenges.
To learn more about National Marriage Week and find a community event near you, visit nationalmarriageweekusa.org.