24 July 2017
Marriage has long been linked to a longer life span, fewer heart attacks, and a lower risk of depression.
However a new study published this month in the journal Social Science Quarterly suggests that our married friends might not be healthier than singletons anymore.
The study was written by Dmitry Tumin, a sociology researcher at Ohio State University, who compared married people born between 1955 and 1984, and found that while older, wedded generations did experience overall better health than their single pals, this side effect has worsened over time.
According to Tumin’s findings, married people – women primarily – were only healthier than single people if their relationship lasted ten years or more, which was described as being ‘completely attenuated among women in the youngest birth cohort’.
The youngest married cohort also failed to show any improved health benefits compared to their never-married contemporaries.
However, while Tumin’s research suggests the tides are turning when it comes to the relationship between health and marriage, it doesn’t exactly explain the reason behind the shift.
The scientists admits that as his research is based on self-reported health information, it doesn’t help us learn about the specific aspects of health which are improving or worsening after marriage, and ‘may reflect demographic and cultural trends that have undermined the protective effects of marriage’.
There’s also less of a cultural taboo regarding non-wedded couples, and a shift when it comes to women traditionally viewing marriage as a means of acquiring social and economic support (remember, this was long before the sexual revolution and glass-ceiling breakers).
Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for a couple to also choose to live separately, save money by living with friends or families, or opt to stay single for longer, especially given the improvements when it comes to economic freedom for women over the years.
“Work-family conflict has increased in the closing decades of the 20th century, and spouses’ actual time spent together has decreased over this period,” Tumin wrote.
“Against a backdrop of greater demands at home and at work, and less time spent together, today’s married couples may indeed experience marriage more as a source of conflict and stress than as a resource that safeguards their health,” he added.
Of course, separating men and women into two cohorts of married and single is a pretty broad approach to ascertaining the health of individuals, especially seeing as the quality of a marriage provides an important indication as to the subjects’ health, more so than the fact they’re simply married.
Furthermore, Tumin argued marriage rates among people of a lower socioeconomic status are on the decline which confuses the data, somewhat.
“It may be the case that in the most recent birth cohorts, when only the most affluent people marry, there could be little change in health after getting married because the health of people who marry is already very good before marriage,’ Tumin argued.
Lastly, Tumin wrote that his study hasn’t included data gathered from same-sex marriages but stands by the fact that: ‘It seems unlikely that marriage of any kind would directly cause large improvements in health in recent birth cohorts.”
Basically, if you’re single and panicking that your married friends are leading a healthier, happier and more prosperous life, you needn’t worry.
Being healthy doesn’t come down to being hitched or single, it’s down to you.