A good union is good for your health
“I can do bad by myself” is a refrain commonly heard in the African-American community, but science says a happy union may be most beneficial to one’s well-being. When British epidemiologist William Farr set out to categorize the “married,” “celibate” and “widowed” in 1858 and found that married couples lived longest and flourished the most, little did he know that his findings would stand more than 100 years later.
Farr’s groundbreaking study back in the day proved that couples in happy longstanding relationships, usually marriages, lived longer, healthier lives. “Marriage is a healthy estate,” Farr concluded from his study. “The single individual is more likely to be wrecked on his voyage than the lives joined together in matrimony.”
If you look back at Farr’s study, it is firmly rooted in the reality of the 1800s; there’s no reference to divorced, cohabitating or same-sex couples, but his overall theory still stands. Scientists have continued to document the “marriage advantage,” the fact that in general married folk live longer and have healthier lives than single people.
An example of this is the fact that married people are less likely to get pneumonia, have surgery, develop cancer, or have heart attacks than their single brethren. Also, a group of Swedish researchers has found that being married lowers a partner’s risk of dementia.
But before you take the plunge with Mr. Might-Be-Right, it’s important to note that several new studies have stressed the importance of having a quality relationship instead of just any old relationship.
A bad marriage or long-term relationship can be harder on your health than being in no relationship at all. According to marriage historian Stephanie Coontz, of the Council on Contemporary Families, it is the relationship more than the title that is key. A stressful relationship can be as bad as a smoking habit. Other studies show those in troubled marriages with surgical scars take longer to heal than those who are single or in happy relationships.
So for you singletons on your quest to happily ever after, keep in mind that the quality of the relationship, not just the end result, is important in your overall happiness and, more importantly, your health.