The Importance of Long-Term Marriage for Health and Happiness

Does marriage make you healthier and happier? And are you happier the longer you are married?

According to Deborah Carr's recent post to the Oxford University Press Blog it just might. She writes:

"Recent research shows that long-married couples exchange love and emotional support, but also regularly engage in spats or minor conflicts which affect older adults' health in both expected and surprising ways.

In recent years, research has flourished on long-married couples, with attention to the complex ways that marital support and strain affect both partners' health, happiness, and even cognitive functioning. Due in part to the collection of large sample survey data sets that obtain information from husbands and wives over time, researchers are moving away from studies that focus on just one partner's appraisal of the marriage, and instead look at the ways both partners' marital experiences affect their own and one another's health.
A special section of Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences recently featured three studies that explored linkages between marital quality and health. [One] study showed that supportive marriage is an important resource that protects against poor health, disability and functional limitations in later life. Choi, Yorgason and Johnson examined changes in marital quality and health among couples in their 50s and older, based on data from the Health and Retirement Study. They found that over a four-year period, increases in marital quality were linked with improvements in self-rated health and declines in disability. They also found that increases in positive aspects of marriage, such as feeling loved and supported by one's partner, led to declines in disability and functional limitations of the other partner, such as difficulties getting up out of a chair. Why would having a happy and satisfied spouse improve our own physical health? The results suggest that a spouse who feels loved and supported may enhance the other spouse's sense of competence as a husband or wife. Knowing one's relevance and value in the significant other's life may also bolster physical well-being."

Knowing this fact helps in explaining not only Why Marriage is Still the Best Default in Estate Planning Conflicts but also why marriage is key to family restoration.  The secret to long-term health and happiness?  Stay married for the long haul.

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