Married adults live longer. but why? – Shelby Sun

I told my wife about a recent study, “Honey, married people live nearly a decade longer than unmarried people.”

She smiled. Then asked “Who.the married men or the women?’ “Both,” I said. “The data from federal death records showed that married men lived 10 years longer than divorced men and married women lived 9 years longer than divorced women.”

To prove my point, I investigated the question further. A survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1999-2002 explored the relationship between martial status and selected health indicators and risk behaviors in an interview of 127,545 adults.

When they compared married adults with their divorced or separated counterparts, the findings were intriguing.

  • Fewer married adults were in fair or poor health (11% vs. 17%} – Fewer married adults had activity limitations (12 % vs. 23%) – Fewer married adults experienced low back pain (28% vs. 32%), headache (15% vs. 19%), and serious psychological stress (2% vs. 6%) – Fewer married adults had leisure time inactivity (37% vs. 43%), cigarette smoking prevalence (19% vs. 35%), and heavy alcohol use (4% vs. 6%)

In general, the married adults tended to outperform adults who were never married, widowed, or those living with a partner.

I wondered, how scientists explained these differences. There are two theories. First is the “marriage protection theory”- that is that married people have more psychological, economic and social support leading them to live healthy lives. Hence, marriage causes people to be healthier and live longer. My wife believes in this theory.

The second theory is the “marriage selection theory” which is people who are healthy tend to get married and stay married, while less healthy people tend to not marry or get divorced. Hence, marriage is just a byproduct of healthy behaviors, and doctors and parents cannot prescribe it as an antidote leading to longevity and healthy living. I believe in this theory.

The truth is likely somewhere in between.

I told my wife “The studies did find some down sides to being married. Married adults tended to be obese or overweight (60 vs. 58%) and .. had to deal with the stresses of the in-laws – something yet to be studied.”