If it weren’t already vomit-inducing to see your social feeds taken over by newly married friends’ smug selfies and declarations of love, a pair of new studies released this week will only add to the resentment: Married couples who stay together ultimately end up happier and healthier than everyone else.
One study, published in the aptly named Journal of Happiness Studies, used data from two existing surveys of couples living in the UK, and found that married couples as well as those who lived together were generally more satisfied with life. The effect was consistent across ages and length of marriage, but it was especially apparent among couples in middle age and those who considered themselves best friends (insert eye-roll emoji).
“These benefits are on average about twice as large for people whose spouse is also their best friend,” said study author John Helliwell of the Vancouver School of Economics in Canada in a statement.
Meanwhile, another study looked at the health outcomes of some 6,000 patients for around three years after they were first suspected of having heart disease or being at high risk for it. They found that married patients were noticeably less likely to die from any cause, especially cardiovascular disease, and less likely to have a heart attack. The apparent disadvantage of being formally unattached was roughly the same no matter whether someone had never married, was divorced, or became widowed. The study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
These studies are hardly the first to find that an enduring marriage can lead to better health. For instance, a study published this August found that people hospitalized with a heart attack were more likely to survive it if they were married. But these two new studies do seem to offer some fresh insights. The happiness study, for example, suggests that simply living together with a partner can provide a a similar buffer of well-being (as long as you’re best friends), while the heart disease study is the first of its kind to compare the different forms of singledom to one another, according to the authors.
As for why marriages could be health-boosting, the answers are probably as boring as attending a vow renewal. Married couples help lighten each other’s emotional and financial load, leading to less overall stress. They’re a constant source of social interaction, and they’re more likely to encourage some kinds of healthy behaviour in one another, like drinking less (though not all kinds — married folks are more likely to be overweight, research has shown, adding some credence to the familiar yarn that we let ourselves go once we shack up).
Some researchers have speculated that the health effects of marriage are overblown, but not for a reason that would make single people feel vindicated. Their theory goes that healthier and happier people are already prime marriage material, so it’s no big surprise their lives turn out better compared them to the unwanted or discarded single people. Great!
Well, at least owning a cat might not actually cause schizophrenia, like everyone thought a few years back. Hurray.