Item from the Smart
Marriages Archive, reproduced in the Divorce Statistics
Only a Piece of Paper?
How Marriage Improves Adult Health
Why Marriage Matters Series: No.4
By Glenn T. Stanton
Is marriage an old-fashioned, outmoded institution? The 1998 South Carolina
Marital Health Index found that 87% of South Carolina adults do not believe
it is. Interestingly, more divorced respondents (80%) than currently married
respondents (72%) are likely to disagree with this statement.1
This is a very good indicator, because marriage is a highly important and
relevant institution. This is especially true in the area of adult health
well being. Men and women who are in their first marriage, on average, enjoy
significantly higher levels of physical and mental health than those who
either single, divorced or living together. The research on this is very
Research conducted that the University of Massachusetts concludes, "one
the most consistent observations in health research is that the married
better health than those of other [relational] statuses."2
Dr. Robert Coombs at UCLA reviewed more than 130 empirical studies published
in this century on how marriage impacts well being. He found, "an intimate
link between marital status and personal well-being."3
Coombs, in his review, found that 70 percent of chronic problem drinkers
either divorced or separated and only 15 percent were married. Single men
more than three times as likely to die of cirrhosis of the liver.4
Long and Healthy Life
Unmarried people spend twice as much time as patients in hospitals as their
married peers and have lower activity levels.5
Research done at Erasmus University in Rotterdam reports, "married
have the lowest morbidity [illness] rates, while the divorced show the
Professor Linda Waite, from the University of Chicago, finds that the
"relationship between marriage and death rates has now reached the
a truism, having been observed across numerous societies and among various
social and demographic groups."
In Waites, 1995 Presidential address to the Population Association of
America, she explained the health benefits of marriage are so strong that
married man with heart disease can be expected to live, on average, 1400
(nearly four years!) longer than an unmarried man with a healthy heart.
longer life expectancy is even longer for a married man who has cancer or
20 pounds over weight compared to his healthy, but unmarried, counterpart.
The advantages for women are similar.7
Additional research from Yale University indicates that a married man who
smokes more than a pack a day can be expected to live as long as a divorced
man who does not smoke. This researcher explains with a touch of humor,
man,s marriage is driving him to heavy smoking, he has a delicate statistical
decision to make."8
Dr. Coombs, research agrees with these findings, "virtually every study
mortality and marital status show the unmarried of both sexes have higher
death rates, whether by accident, disease, or self-inflicted wounds, and
is found in every country that maintains accurate health statistics."9
Research published in JAMA finds that cures for cancer are significantly
successful (8 to 17%) when a patient is married and being married was
comparable with being in an age category 10 years younger.10
Research dating back to 1936 shows that first-time psychiatric admission
rates for males suffering from schizophrenia were 5.4 times greater for
nonmarried men than married men. Dr. Benjamin Malzberg, the author of this
study, concludes, "The evidence seems clear that the married population
in general, much lower rates of mental disease than any of the other marital
More recent research conducted jointly at Yale University and UCLA reports,
One of the most consistent findings in psychiatric epidemiology is that
married persons enjoy better health than the unmarried. Researchers have
consistently found the highest rates of mental disorder among the divorced
and separated, the lowest rates among the married and intermediate rates
among the single and widowed.12
They also found that a cohabiting partner could not replicate these benefits
Additional research shows that marriage:
· Improves sexual fulfillment13
· Protects against feelings of loneliness14
· Contributes to elevated feelings of overall happiness15
· Protects women from domestic and general violence16
· Enhances a parent,s ability to parent17
· Increases individual earnings and savings18
Research conducted at the University of Colorado indicates why marriage
beneficial to adults,
Generally, compared with those who are not married, married individuals
better, take better care of themselves, and live a more stable, secure and
A more thorough treatment of this topic is contained in Glenn T. Stanton,s
Why Marriage Matters: Reasons to Believe in Marriage in Postmodern Society
(Colorado Springs: Pinon Press, 1997). Order by calling Palmetto Family
Council at 803/733-5600.
1 Glenn T. Stanton, 1998 South Carolina Marital Health Index, a publication
of the Palmetto Family Council, 1998, p. 32.
2 Katherine Reissman and Naomi Gerstel, "Marital Dissolution and Health:
Males or Females Have Greater Risk?" Social Science and Medicine 20
3 Robert Coombs, "Marital Status and Personal Well-Being: A Literature
Review," Family Relations 40 (1991) 97-102.
4 Coombs, 1991, p. 97.
5 Lois Verbrugge and Donald Balaban, "Patterns of Change, Disability
Well-Being," Medical Care 27 (1989): S128-S147.
6 I.M. Joung, et al., "Differences in Self-Reported Morbidity by Marital
Status and by Living Arrangement," International Journal of Epidemiology
7 Linda J. Waite, "Does Marriage Matter?" Presidential Address
American Population Association of America, April 8, 1995; Linda Waite,
Marriage Matter?" Demography 32 (1995): 483-507.
8 Harold Morowitz, "Hiding in the Hammond Report," Hospital Practice
(August 1975), p. 39.
9 Coombs, 1991, p. 98.
10 James Goodwin, et al., "The Effect of Marital Status on Stage, Treatment,
and Survival of Cancer Patients," Journal of the American Medical
Association, 258 (1987): 3152-3130.
11 Benjamin Malzberg, "Marital Status in Relation to the Prevalence
Mental Disease," Psychiatric Quarterly 10 (1936): 245-261.
12 David Williams, et al., "Marital Status and Psychiatric Disorders
Blacks and Whites," Journal of Health and Social Behavior 33 (1992):
13 Robert T. Michael, et al., Sex in America: A Definitive Survey, (Boston:
Little, Brown, and Company, 1994).
14 Randy Page and Galen Cole, "Demographic Predictors of Self-Reported
Loneliness in Adults," Psychological Reports 68 (1991): 939-945.
15 Coombs, 1991, p. 100.
16 Jan Stets, "Cohabiting and Marital Aggression: The Role of Social
Isolation," Journal of Marriage and the Family 53 (1991): 669-680;
Victimization in the United States, 1992," U.S. Department of Justice,
of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, (March 1994), p. 31,
17 Ronald Angel and Jacqueline Angel, Painful Inheritance: Health and the
New Generation of Fatherless Families (Madison: The University of Wisconsin
Press, 1993), pp. 139, 148.
18 Waite, 1995, p. 483-507.
19 Richard Rogers, "Marriage, Sex, and Mortality," Journal of
the Family 57 (1995): 515-526.
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