When it comes to tying the knot, most people are thinking about romance, finances, family, and just about anything besides their health. And yet, there are actually a lot of health benefits to be garnered from settling down with the right person for the rest of your life. You might think that after years of marriage, you’re likely to be at your partner’s throat, a situation that is anything but healthy. But in truth, many marriages do not embody the crotchety-old-couple scenario frequently portrayed by the entertainment industry. Instead, fruitful marriages seem to bring overall happiness and contentment to the two people involved, which is great for their ongoing state of health.
The first major benefit of marriage is stability. Once you’ve said “I do”, you can get to work settling into a comfortable life with your soul-mate. In general, people who are newly in love tend to be happier than those who are single and looking for love (and frustrated by the lack of suitable candidates). This could be due in part to the extra dopamine that studies show is present during the honeymoon phase of a relationship. But once a relationship has been going for a couple of years, the dopamine disappears. Luckily, those who enjoy a stable, long-term relationship get a boost from oxytocin (often called the “love hormone”), which has been linked to not only pair bonding, but is also said to play a role in orgasm and maternal behaviors (amongst other things). In short, it is present when people are feeling the love.
And being in a stable relationship leads to reduced stress, which is fantastic news for your health. When people are stressed out, they open themselves up to all sorts of ailments, both physical and mental. Studies have shown that high levels of stress can lead to fatigue and a decrease in immune response (meaning you’ll be literally sick and tired). In addition, hypertension and weight gain seem to be common results of ongoing stress. Of course, it may also cause psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression. In short, stress is best avoided. And being in a stable relationship is a great way to do it.
Marriage can also be beneficial for your health in that partners tend to encourage each other to do better. One partner may urge the other to return to school, finish a degree, and get a better paying job with less time demands (providing for job satisfaction). The other may be inclined to start exercising and eating better, bringing his/her spouse along for the ride. Marriages are symbiotic, so when one person is engaged in healthy behavior it often spills over to the other party.
Finally, couples that are married are more likely to have health insurance, especially if there are kids in the equation, which means regular doctor and dental visits for preventive care. But they also enjoy a different kind of insurance (the kind that unmarried couples who live together get through a cohabitation agreement). People who are married have the security of knowing that another person will be there to care for them should they need it. And this provides one of the best health benefits of all, because those who have to suffer through illness alone are going to have a much harder time, and as a result, they may recover more slowly (or not at all).