Marriage: The Death-Defying Power of Healthy Marriage
- The companionship, love, and support provided by marriage are associated with lower mortality for almost every major cause of death.
Married people are not only more likely to live longer, but they are also more satisfied with living and seem to better survive a variety of diseases.
One study showed that the percentage of cancer survivors was significantly higher for the married, as compared with the unmarried, in almost every category of gender, age, or stage of disease.
Another study showed that married couples are three times more likely to survive five years after a heart attack than those who are the unmarried.
However, it should come as no surprise to learn that unhealthy marriages contribute to unhealthy people.
Married couples who constantly argue are not nearly as healthy as those who have learned communication techniques that reduce or eliminate perpetual bickering. In one study of couples married an average of forty-two years, those who constantly argued had significantly weaker immune systems than did couples who engaged in fewer disagreements.
A study of newlyweds showed that those who exhibited the most negative or hostile behaviors during a thirty-minute discussion of marital problems had measurably reduced immune system function as well as increased blood pressure.
So what do you do if you have an unhealthy marriage?
Does this lead to the conclusion, then, that if you're in an unhealthy marriage you should divorce? Not at all. In fact, medical studies show that in most cases the long-term effects of divorce can be unhealthy not only for the couple but especially for the children.
Many people think that someone who's in a bad marriage has two choices: stay married and miserable, or get a divorce and become happier. In 2002, a study was published (the first of its kind) after testing this hypothesis. The findings were astonishing. The researchers found no evidence that unhappily married adults who divorced were typically any happier than unhappily married people who stayed married. Even more dramatically, the researchers found that two-thirds of unhappily married spouses who stayed married reported that five years later their marriages were happy.
Most surprising of all, the unhappiest marriages reported the most dramatic turnarounds: Among those who rated their marriages as very unhappy, almost eight out of ten who avoided divorce were happily married five years later.
My prescription for an unhealthy marriage is not to amputate a mate but to heal the marriage.
Used with permission, from the book 10 Essentials of Highly Healthy People by Dr. Walt Larimore, with Traci Mullins.
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