Married couples are often healthier and live longer than their single counterparts. This trend remains true despite economic and cultural differences. While the promise of longevity may make marriage seem rather enticing, before you run out to tie the knot, you should be aware of the health risks also associated with holy matrimony.
Study after study has continued to suggest that there is something about the married life that keeps people healthy. The phenomenon even has a name: the marriage protection hypothesis. It’s built around the idea that marriage gives you a lifelong health advisor that will push you to take care of a health problem that you might have otherwise ignored, such as that persistent cough or curbing your alcohol consumption. The hypothesis is also based on concepts such as having a family giving you something to live for and people to also interact with, Slate reported. This is, however, only one side of the story. The health risks associated with marriage, although not as well-documented, are no less troubling.
Marriage Can Make You Pile On The Pounds
Women who get married are 3.9 percent more likely to become overweight than their single peers. As for obesity, marriage makes women 1.4 percent more likely to become obese. The marriage obesity link is even bigger for men, Slate reported. They are 6.1 percent more likely to be become overweight upon marriage and 3.3 percent more likely to become obese.
The reasons for this are based on two simple human characteristics. The first is our constant search for a potential mate. After marriage, this huge life goal is accomplished. When one is no longer on the dating scene, efforts to maintain peak physical health diminish, causing the waistline to increase.
The second cause behind the marriage obesity link is our tendency to eat in groups. Eating in groups is also associated with eating more. One study found that when compared to eating alone participants ate 41 percent more when eating with a companion. This increased their calorie intake by 76 percent. Having a spouse gives you a constant meal companion, thus this increased meal size may become a regular occurrence.
There is a silver lining, however. While your spouse is likely to contribute to your weight gain, another study showed that they can also aid in weight loss. The study’s results found that married couples who try to lose weight together shed more pounds than spouses who attempted the feat on their own. Partners are likely to mirror each other’s body changes. If one partner adopts a healthier lifestyle, the other is likely to follow suit, whether they are conscious of their actions or not. Partners are also likely to motivate you to continue attendance in a fitness class that you feel inclined to drop out of.
A Turbulent Marriage Can Lead To Overall Poor Health
The researchers should have been more specific in their conclusion of the “marriage protection hypothesis.” While it is true that a happy marriage can significantly improve your health and lifespan, and unhappy marriage is capable of doing the exact opposite.
A pair of researchers, who also happened to be married, conducted an experiment to see how spouse interaction could affect the body’s ability to heal itself. Their results were pretty amazing. The couples were subjected to a slightly painful, blistering procedure, then asked to interact with their spouse.
Results showed that the skin of the partners who argued with their spouses healed on average a day later than couples who had pleasant interactions, The New York Times reported. As for couples who had particularly heated discussions, their skin took even longer to heal. The conclusion of co-author Kate Kiecolt-Glaser was clear: If being married means that you’re in constant discord with your spouse, from a health standpoint, “you’re better off out of it.” Arguments in marriage are nearly unavoidable, but psychology professor Timonthy W. Smith explained to The Times it’s not exactly how bad the arguments are but how void they are of affection. Using terms such as “Honey,” or giving a simple pat or squeeze during an argument, was linked to less health risks.
One study, published earlier this year in the online journal Psychophysiology, found marital stress to be associated with higher incidence of psychiatric disorders, with depression the number one condition. In the study, the researchers found marital stress to be directly related to an individual’s ability to recover from emotional stimuli. Participants who rated their marriages as less than satisfying, or had partners who “often let them down” had less noticeable responses to images meant to evoke happiness. “These results suggest that social stress may impact health by influencing the time course of responding to positive events,” the authors wrote.