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25 Sep

Healthily Ever After: The Benefits of Marriage Examined

Marriage isn’t always perfect, but what is? And then again, there are several benefits of marriage that most people just take for granted.

Ever have that day or that argument that leaves you secretly thinking, “I wish that I was single”? Marriage is full of peaks and valleys, but overall, those who are married report more satisfaction in life, greater feelings of security, raise mentally healthier kids, and have better health outcomes and qualities of life.

So, if you’re sitting around envying your single friends who are constantly going out on exciting dates and meeting new people, take heart. The grass is always greener on the other side, but scientific research concludes that the grass really is greener for those who are in stable relationships and have made the commitment to love each other forever.

What are the benefits of marriage?

Happily ever after is an illusion that has been tainting our realistic view of what marriage is since the first time someone read us a fairytale. There is no such thing as happily ever after. There is, however, something known as “happily mostly after,” and that is what you should hope for.

More good than bad, more health than sickness, and till death do you part—these are the signs of a healthy relationship, even if it isn’t always bliss. Stick with it, try to forgive more than being forgiven, and learn to choose your battles, and these 11 benefits of marriage can be yours.

#1 It may contribute to a longer life. An abundance of studies continually come to the same conclusion: those who are married live longer when they stay married than those who live unmarried throughout life. When you adjust for all other factors, the trend can be seen in every race and across many different cultures. Moreover, it doesn’t matter what type of things that people die from. Those who are unmarried have a shorter life expectancy, regardless of their gender or ethnicity.

#2 You have a better standard of living. By staying together, you don’t suffer the hardships of splitting expenses and households and dividing things in two. There are those who believe that the reason for the discrepancy in benefits to being married versus unmarried is due to a better standard of living for those who stay together. Hopeless romantics *such as myself* choose to believe that love saves all. Two are always much stronger than one when dealing with life situations.

#3 Married people are healthier than those who remain unmarried. There is an abundance of different ways that staying a couple increases your physical health and wellbeing. When you live with someone, they are more likely to notice subtle differences about you, which you may not even notice yourself. Thus, they can encourage you to seek medical attention far more quickly than you would have thought to do on your own. The physical benefits are not just for acute illnesses like cold and flu, but for chronic disease prevention such as diabetes and cancer.

#4 Married people engage in fewer risky behaviors. Married people are also less likely to engage in risky behaviors. Worrying about how their behaviors will affect their spouse, they tend to “tone it down” a bit. They drink less, they eat better, and they recover quicker from illnesses because they take the time to allow their bodies to heal. Sometimes, two people caring for each other is more powerful than just one who would rather ignore it and carry on.

#5 Guys, the benefits apply to you, too. When you compare the health benefits for men against those of women who are married, what you find is that the health of a married man versus an unmarried man increases significantly. Even if men like to paint their wives as a nag who is always on them about something, their wives are actually doing things out of love that may be saving their lives.

Research indicates that it isn’t just about getting married. A man who is in a committed relationship benefits from pairing with a woman. Doing away with destructive behaviors before the “I dos” are even exchanged, seriously dating someone can drastically improve a man’s health.

#6 Emotional support is key. Studies continually show that people who feel a sense of community and emotional support from those around them have better health outcomes than those who feel emotionally isolated. Being a couple means that you have someone to lean on when you need some support.

Emotional support can be a buffer not only against mental health, but against physical health as well. Studies have shown that your marital status is relative to your immune system function and may help to curb chronic disease. Protecting you from stress, which is a major contributor to illness, having someone to talk to, vent to, and help with your conflict resolution can all promote more health benefits than are likely to occur being alone and continually reaching out to others.

#7 Mental health improvements and marriage. A landmark study in 1991 concluded that being in a marriage decreases the likelihood that you will experience major depression or psychiatric disorders much more than cohorts that are unmarried. Apparently, vows are more than just words—they are the cement that helps a married couple build a healthier life for both members.

The most shocking finding is that those who go through a divorce or separation instead of choosing to work it out are more prone to depression and mental illness than both married people and unmarried people. The additional stress of a divorce is enough to result in the poorest mental outcomes. Even those who reported that they were unhappy in their marriage faired better mentally than those who had chosen to end the relationship. 

#8 Self-reported happiness and sexual fulfillment. People who are married, on average, report being happier than those who are single. Being married makes people feel more satisfied with life than those who choose to stay single. Couples who are in a functional relationship also report having more sexual activity and intimacy, which comes with its own set of benefits.

A healthy sex life results in less illness, a decrease in chronic diseases such as cardiovascular health, diabetes, and cancer, and it also helps to boost your mental status. Those who have a healthy sex life gain additional benefits over those who have sex outside of marriage, or one night stands. They may feel fantastic temporarily, but the long-term effects of a casual sexual encounter can’t touch the benefits of being in a marriage.

#9 It’s not just about living together. If you think that these benefits are just about being in a live-in relationship, you would be wrong. Many of the benefits measured for married couples are all but gone in a committed relationship without vows or a cohabitation situation. Perhaps because there isn’t the same level of commitment, or maybe because you don’t feel the same level of security, the same is not found when studying those who have committed to living forever without ever formally tying the knot.

#10 Having an emergency contact. When you go to the doctor and have to fill out those intake forms, one of the first questions on the answer form is likely “Who is your emergency contact?” If you are in a marriage, there is no thought needed—the answer is automatic. Your spouse is your emergency contact.

Being someone’s “go-to” when something drastic happens is about so much more than just a number to call. Marriage is about having one person on whom you know you can always rely to have your back, to defend you, and to love you unconditionally. Many say that no one will ever love you like your mother, but I don’t subscribe to that. The person you marry loves you just as much as your mother, just differently.

#11 Married couples raise healthier kids. There is very little debate that children who grow up in a dual parent home fare better than those who grow up in a household headed by a single parent. They have less anxiety, engage less in risky behaviors, have a lower risk of teen pregnancy, a lower risk of drug dependency, and are overall more stable as adults. If you are considering having children or already do have them, think twice about your decision to get or stayed married. Marriage is not only healthy for you, it is healthy for the entire family.

Marriage is about supporting one another, being there to lean on each other when your legs can’t hold the weight themselves, and never having to be someone else to please the other. Knowing that if the world were to end tomorrow, you would have someone to hold you tight is one of the most comforting feelings that anyone can have.

Humans were not meant to be alone. If we were, we would not have been given the tools of emotional bonding, empathy, and the capacity of love. Not every marriage is going to be perfect. I will go one step further and say that no marriage is going to be perfect. But it is in the imperfection that makes it work.

There will likely be times when you get so upset, frustrated, and angry that you may see no benefits in marriage. But the science just doesn’t support it. Belonging to another, being committed to another, and being accountable to the one person who will always have your heart is the best health boost that anyone can have.

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