If you have a happy marriage, “til death do us part” may be a long ways off.
Married people who rated their unions as “very happy” or “pretty happy” had roughly 20% lower odds of dying early than people who said their marriages were “not too happy,” according to a recent study. The work expands on existing studies that have linked marriage to a number of positive health outcomes, from a healthy heart to a trimmer waistline.
The study was based on interview responses from more than 19,000 married people up to age 90 who participated in the General Social Survey between 1978 and 2010. They were asked to rate the happiness and overall quality of their marriages, among other questions. The researchers then tracked their health and survival through 2014.
Study co-author Mark Whisman says there are several ways that a good marriage seems to improve health. For one thing, married people may encourage their spouses to adopt healthy habits such as eating well, exercising and seeing a doctor regularly.
But there are also a number of ways that a supportive marriage seems to help psychological health. In general, marriage “provides people with meaningful roles and identity, a purpose in life, a sense of security,” Whisman says. “Those kind of psychological factors might influence health.”