Monday, July 02, 2007
Marriage good for your health?
"The last time I felt free was before I was married," said a friend who has been with her husband for 40 years.

"Great..." I said as I smiled and nodded politely.

I'm getting married on Saturday - and everyone has advice. My mother tells me not to get too stressed out before the wedding. Other people give me directives: to breathe, to enjoy the day and to be sure to have someone save us some cake. Trusted friends share their wisdom on how to keep a marriage happy. My doctor-friend lists off the health benefits of being blissfully wed.

It's true. Married people were healthier for nearly every measure of health, says a 2004 CDC study. Married couples live longer lives, suffer less from heart disease, back pain, headaches and serious psychological distress. They are also less likely to smoke and drink heavily.

More recently, an Ohio State University study out this year found that depressed people gain more from being married than single people. They fared better on depression tests than when they were single, but they do report less-happy marriages overall.

The one area where married people did worse? Weight gain. No surprise there. I must admit that this trend started long before the nuptials for me. I like to call it happy fat. It makes me feel better. In the long run, middle-aged married men tipped the scales the most. From ages 45 to 64, three out of four married men were overweight or obese. Single men and women who had never been married were the leanest groups.

Interestingly enough, cohabitation didn't earn the same health benefits. People with live in partners tended to score similar to divorced or separated people in terms of health.

But a bad marriage can have serious negative effects on your health. Just one example, marital stress is as strong a marker as work stress when it comes to your risk of heart disease according to Dr. Richard Stein of the American Heart Association.

What is it about marriage that leads to better health? Do you think single or married people have higher levels of stress? Why do you think live-in partners don't share the same health benefits? Do you have any advice on maintaining a happy marriage?
How strange that you posted this entry exactly the day after my husband and I discussed the secret to our happiness.

Our answer: Do not invite criticism into your life. If you need to talk, choose your listener carefully, or even better, choose a professional. Otherwise the turkeys will get you down.
I think that two people can either bolster each other or drag each other down. It depends upon the way they relate to each other. In our case, we both gained a lot of weight during my pregnancies. Now that I am losing that weight my husband is starting to make some changes in his diet too. We tend to bring each other up.

Each marriage is only as strong as the friendship that it encompasses. If you truly relate to this person as your best friend and that is reciprocated, then the marriage can withstand a lot more than a marriage based on money or a sense of duty.

Just my opinion. I am married to my best friend. Sometimes he drives me nuts, but I wouldn't want to be married to anyone else. It also helps that he and I both had horrible first marriages. We know a bad marriage. We've both been there.
As a 35 year old single woman, I'm curious as to what the responses will be from married couples.

I've thoroughly enjoyed being single and living alone most of my adult life. It's been a great opportunity to grow and do what and when I want. I unexpectedly met someone 9 months ago and have enjoyed being in a relationship since. Although it can't be compared to a marriage, the relationship has added much to my life.

I think both married and single people experience about the same amount of high stress. When you're single and you don't have siblings or parents, who do you put down as an emergency contact? If you're ill either for a short or an extended period of time, no one is there to care for you much less is working to keep money coming in.
My husband and I had an argument about our sons this morning. Yes, it was actually a big quarrel. After that, I read your blog and I wondered if marriage was good for me and my health. I have married for 21 years. It usually gives me lots of stress, and gives minor pleasures at times. But…I still think it’s good for people (including me!) to get married and have a family. To maintain a marriage, you two should face the same direction, not each other. As for obesity, I am not a good cook, so none of my family is fat!

I would like to close by writing that "I hope you share a long and happy life together"
I believe that any relationship can affect your health, mental well-being, and happiness. As for marriage vs. cohabitating... I'm going to lean for the commitment factor, actually. Marriage feels more secure I think. As I've been single, married, AND divorced, I'd say that although things weren't exactly rosy during the "married" part, the fact that I had someone there waiting for me when I got home just made bad things a little better.

As for maintaining a happy marriage, I agree with what Jan B said- relate to that person as your best friend. There is no greater intimacy than sharing your laughs, your tears, your happiness and your sadness with a person that you love. You can deal with the world crashing down on your head if there is another person helping you hold it up.

As for that wedding Chris- I eloped. Much less stress :)
I fully believe that being good friends and having a lot in common has allowed my husband and me to reach 28 years of marriage. We were married at age 19! We were good friends before we ever dated in high school. We have similar taste in movies, music, travel, decorating styles, etc. We also had similar upbringings and values. We make fun, relaxation and time for each other (alone) a high priority in our lives. I firmly believe all that has allowed us to have a happy relationship. We've endured financial hardship, clinical depression, problems with our children and health problems and yet have remained strong in our commitment to each other.
I think expect things to change when you get married (i.e., you will both be forced to do more things now "because we are married" that you likely didn't force the issue on before). But other than that, don't *try* to change the other person. Love, respect, acceptance, and a willingness to compromise.
For 11 years I have worked in a 200 bed acute care hospital and have observed a huge number of happily married older couples. For routine small talk, especially after they discuss having been happily married 50 or more years, I often have asked, "So, what is your secret?" I heard a variety of answers, from "He makes more than I spend," to "Whoever left first had to take the kids," and a host of other answers.

It finally hit me last year, that the common denominator in all the diverse answers -- was a sense of humor.
I am a 30-year-old, single woman and although I value my independent life and know that I just haven't found "the one" yet, I sometimes feel lonely and a bit down in the dumps about not having babies and a happy marriage like so many of my friends and family.
Just my opinion, but I think singles are more prone to depression during the holidays, especially Christmas and even Fourth of July (no one to cuddle with to watch the fireworks?). Plus, being single, I know I tend to eat out more, or opt for a bowl of cereal or a PB&J sandwich instead of cooking a healthy meal for myself. It's sometimes too much work to cook and portion out food for one. That type of diet probably leads to increased risks for disease (CVD, etc), because I'm not getting all my fruits and vegetables.

Lucky for me, I love to run!

Congratulations on your marriage!

Judy
Congratulations on your marriage. May it be a great one!

A good marriage is a place to thrive and experience happiness and the joys of connection to others. A bad marriage can be the loneliest place on earth.

On July 19 Eileen and I celebrate 27 years of a good marriage. We have both been in bad marriages for significant periods, so we know the difference.

We are both in excellent heath, working, and excited about life. Not bad for a couple in their late sixties!

If I look at all the things that have kept our marriage strong or pulled us out of dark places, what stands out is our willingness and eagerness to talk freely about anything and everything. And we can do that because we long since agreed never to criticize each other. We accept each other as we are, strong opinions and all.

PS: Although we are not obese, we do struggle with weight.

Neill
A GOOD marriage may be good for your health, but my marriage was bad for my sanity and my health. It was a living hell, and one day I finally had enough. I laid my plans, marshalled my resources, and just threw what little I could into the truck one day and drove away. It was MY truck, btw--one I'd purchased and paid off before I even married.

I would NEVER, EVER consider marriage, or even cohabitation or dating again. Marriage destroyed my finances, endangered my physical health, and certainly didn't help with my post-war (1991) fragile state of mental health.
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