Happily Ever After Leads To A Healthier Life
July 4, 2013

Happier Marriage Leads To Better Health

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

New evidence has surfaced showing a happy marriage can lead to a healthier life.

Researchers wrote in the Journal of Marriage and Family they found evidence about how happy marriages help individuals sustain health over the long run. The team used data from a nationally representative sample of 1,681 married individuals followed over the course of two decades.

The survey measured the marital quality of the respondents by asking about happiness and satisfaction, and marital problems. Respondents then rated their health on a scale of one to four. Results from this survey showed those with higher marital conflict were more likely to report poor health.

"The implication is that marital conflict is a risk factor for poor health," said Brigham Young University family life researcher Rick Miller. "Couples that fight or argue frequently should get professional help to reduce their conflict because it is affecting their health."

He said there is evidence from previous research that shows how marital conflict leads to poor health. However, his study focused on how happy marriages have a "preventative component that keeps you in good health over the years."

Miller hopes the growing research on the importance of marriage catches the attention of policy makers. He said he believes health insurance providers should cover marriage counseling because it can help prevent future health problems.

According to the research, happily married spouses encourage one another to stay current on doctor's appointments, sleep better, drink less and participate in healthy activities.

"When spouses have a bad day, in a happy marriage, they're more likely to support each other and empathize with each other," Miller said. "That support reduces stress and helps buffer against a decline in health."

A previous BYU study found relationships improve your odds of survival by 50 percent. The team wrote in the journal PLoS Medicine in 2010 about how social connections can improve our survival rate. They also found having low social interactions can be twice as harmful as obesity, or can be the equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

"When someone is connected to a group and feels responsibility for other people, that sense of purpose and meaning translates to taking better care of themselves and taking fewer risks," BYU professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad said.