Both men and women can benefit from marriage, claim British experts, suggesting that stable, long-term committed relationships boost women's mental health and men's physical health.
David and John Gallacher from the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, Wales, analyzed nearly 150 published studies into the benefits of marriage, and came to the conclusion that the reason men benefit physically when married is their spouse's positive influence on lifestyle. For married women, in turn, the boost in mental health may be attributed to their attitude towards the marriage, as women place great value on the importance of their relationship itself.
The authors also found that the benefits of exclusive relationships increase over time and have a marked effect on longevity. According to the report, couples in committed relationships tend to live longer because commitment seems to provide more supportive ties and helpful relationships, starting with a spouse or a partner, and further expands to more healthy lifestyles and better health, both emotional and physical. The experts said that married people are more likely to eat healthy foods, have more social ties, including friends and family, and take better care of each other. The mortality rates among married couples were between 10 and 15 per cent lower when compared to those individuals who remained single.
However, the experts cautioned that not all relationships appear to be good for health, pointing to evidence that single people demonstrate better mental health than those who are in strained and problematic relationships. They also confirmed that breaking up and exiting a relationship is one of the hardest thing a person can do and that a divorce can have a devastating impact on people. Being in relationships with multiple partners has been associated with a risk of premature death.
Teenage relationships were found to be associated with increased rates of depressive symptoms. But all this slightly improved with a person's maturity. And although romantic relationships among young individuals between 18 and 25 years are linked to better overall mental health, the boost in physical health for them is not yet clear.
Researchers noted that in spite of the fact that failures in relationships can be bad for health, people should not be trying to avoid them. They suggested that it is still better to stop a bad relationship rather than not getting into a relationship at all. Overall, it is probably worth giving it a try, they said.
Previous research on the matter have been associating marriage with a decreased risk of developing cancer, pneumonia, having surgery or suffering a heart attack. One Swedish study revealed that being married or cohabiting with a partner in midlife is linked to a lower risk of dementia, and researchers from Netherlands came to the conclusion that married people when compared to their single peers have a lower risk of two dozen causes of death, including homicide, car accidents and certain types of cancer.
The Gallacher's report, titled "Are relationships good for your health?" is published in the British Medical Journal.