Monday, May 6, 2002
Study reveals relation between health and relationships
A story released today by Reuters reports that according to a new study by Dr. Zheng Wu of the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, married people appear to have better health than their single peers. However, the same study also reveals that if the marriage ends, that healthy edge tends to disappear.
The new study published in the May issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family shows that cohabiting couples also experience a decrease in health after splitting up.
"Leaving a co-habitation, like a marriage, tends to have a detrimental effect on health," said Dr. Wu.
Wu and his co-author Randy Hart obtained their results from nationwide surveys on physical and mental health and relationship status, conducted by Statistics Canada at 2-year intervals starting in the 1990s. There were 9,775 participants, aged 20 to 64 years when the surveys began.
Researchers have proposed two theories to explain why married people report better health than non-married people. One supposes that healthier people are more likely to get married, while the other, called the "marriage protection hypothesis", suggests that married couples improve their health by providing each other with social and financial support, and by monitoring each other's health behaviors.
Wu said he tried to understand if either of these hypotheses might explain the health benefits of marriage and co-habitation by analyzing the results in different ways.
The authors conclude that "protection effects" may explain much of why married or co-habitating couples experience health gains. The findings also suggest that living together and being married are similar in terms of health benefits gained.
"Although there are some differences between marital and non-marital unions, our research suggests that in terms of health outcomes, the two are quite similar," they write. "The finding that co-habitation and marriage share similar health consequences lends credence to the notion that co-habitation has become a viable form of family living."