Often, as I stand at the end of a long flower-draped carpet, looking at the anxious bridegroom and nervous, beaming bride being ushered down the isle by her dad, I silently smile and wonder “do you have any idea what you are letting yourself into…?”
Because – honestly – I had no idea what I was saying “yes!” to when I enthusiastically promised forever love to my wife ten years ago. Yes I was repeatedly warned by older married people that married life is tough, that it requires work, that the romance is not all it is promised to be in the movies, that I should enjoy my time of freedom before I say “I do” to a life of “ball and chain” etc. At that time I was also aware that the divorce rate in my country was about 50%, being Christian or not. In short, from all over I got the message that married life is quite grim.
But I was never told what I discovered over the last decade, and what research is progressively revealing about married life. Today I know that “he who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord!” (Proverbs 18:21) and this “favor” or “blessing” is evident in at least the following verified benefits over non-married individuals: married people will statistically live longer, happier, healthier (physically and psychologically), wealthier and safer than non-married adults.
Married adults enjoy longer and healthier lives
It has been suggested that the longevity and health is closely related to wealth, education or even nationality. But contemporary research has discovered for you to live longer and healthier you don’t necessary have to earn more, study more or even emigrate – you simply need to get married! Married adults generally outlive their unmarried counterparts[i] – regardless of cultural background or nationality[ii]. Linda Waite, University of Chicago sociologist concluded after years of researching sociology “The evidence from four decades of research is surprisingly clear: a good marriage is both men’s and women’s best bet for living a long and healthy life.”[iii] In fact, saying “I do” has a similar impact on one’s health as that of a smoker quitting.[iv]
Married couples are more likely to enjoy better overall physical health: married persons have the lowest incidences of diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease than adults from any other relational status.[v] “The protective influence of marriage applies not only to more minor illnesses like colds, flu, and migraine headaches but also to serious health issues like cancer, heart disease, and heart attacks – as well as the need for any kind of surgery.” [vi] In addition, married couples recover better from both minor and major illnesses[vii] and even boast stronger immune systems.[viii]
Married adults enjoy better emotional and mental health
Referring to a 2004 report from the (US) National Center for Health Statistics[ix] Bridget Maher from the Center for Marriage and Family Studies at the Family Research Council concludes that “married people are happier and healthier than widowed, divorced, separated, cohabiting or never-married people, regardless of race, age, sex, education, nationality, or income.” This same study revealed that the improved emotional health show that married adults have the lowest amount of serious psychological distress and exhibit less addictive behavior, while another reveal that married people live longer and are less likely to commit suicide that those who are unmarried.[x]
Marriage leads to higher incomes and greater wealth
Married people accumulate more wealth over time than unmarried people[xi] and tend to earn higher salaries as well – one study found the increase to be 22%![xii]
Marriage brings safety
Marriage is undeniably the safest relationship to be in – physically and emotionally. One study revealed that the occurrence of physical aggression in unmarried relationships to be three times higher than that in married relationships.[xiii]
Marriage brings the benefits, not simply living together
Interestingly, these benefits are not shared by adults who simply live together – only those who get married enjoy these health, wealth and safety benefits. Studies indicate that co-habitation (and singles with intimate relationships) experience less financial satisfaction and poorer psychological health than their married counterparts.[xiv]
Now you know what I wish every bride and groom knew before they got married, and what every fearful lover and struggling married couple knew: that married adults have a much higher likelihood of living longer, being healthier, happier, wealthier and safer than being single or divorced. Truly, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord!” (Proverbs 18:21)
So it seems that you will be better off marrying the lonely girl in the office across from the passageway, or the person having coffee with you, or your neighbor (what’s his name again?) – even if you don’t like them.
Note: the two most influential papers I used in compiling this blogpost are the Focus on the Family Memo on The Health Benefits of Marriage (September 2012) by Andrew Hess and Glenn T. Stanton as well as the Family Research Council Issue Analysis Paper on The Benefits of Marriage (March 2010) by Bridget Maher. See also Marriage and the Family in the United States: Resources for Society (2012) by Theresa Notare, PhD for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
[i] Robert M. Kaplan and Richard G. Kronick, “Marital status and longevity in the United States population,” Journal of Epidemiology and Com-munity Health 60 (2006): 763.
[ii] Yuaureng Hu and Noreen Goldman, “Mortality differentials by marital status: an international comparison.” Demography 27 (1990): 233-50.
[iii] Linda J. White and Maggie Gallagher. The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially (New York: Doubleday, 2000), 64.
[iv] Chris M. Wilson and Andrew J. Oswald, “How Does Marriage Affect Physical and Psychological Health? A Survey of the Longitudinal Evi-dence,” Institute for Study of Labor Study Paper 1619 (Bon, Germany: Institute for the Story of Labor, May 2005), 16.
[v] Amy Mehraban Pienta, “Health Consequences of Marriage for the Retirement Years,” Journal of Family
Issues 21 (July 2000): 559–586.
[vi] Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser and Tamara L. Newton, “Marriage and Health: His and Hers,” Psychological Bulletin 127 (2001): 472-503.
[vii] Catherine E. Ross, John Mirowsky, and Karen Goldsteen, “The Impact of Family on Health: Decade in Review,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 52 (1990): 1064.
[viii] Sheldon Cohen, William J. Doyle, David P. Skoner, Bruce S. Rabin, Jack M. Gwaltney Jr., “Social Ties and Susceptivility to the Common Cold,” Journal of the American Medical Association 277 (1997): 1940-44.
[ix] Charlotte A. Schoenborn, “Marital Status and Health: United States, 1999-2002,” Advance Data from
Vital and Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Number 351, December 15,
[x] Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher, The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier,
Healthier, and Better Off Financially (New York: Doubleday, 2000) 50–52.
[xi] Waite and Gallagher, 97–123.
[xii] Leslie S. Stratton, “Examining the Wage Differential for Married and Cohabiting Men,” Economic
Inquiry 40 (April 2002): 199–212.
[xiii] Sonia Miner Salari and Bret M. Baldwin, “Verbal, Physical and Injurious Aggression among Intimate
Couples Over Time,” Journal of Family Issues 23 (May 2002): 523–550.
[xiv] Steven Stack and J. Ross Eshleman, “Marital Status and Happiness: A 17-Nation Study,” Journal of Marriage and Family 60 (1998): 527-36.