Not sure whether you want to settle down and get married? Most people know the economic benefits –tax deductions, survivor benefits, shared expenses and legal rights. But a good marriage or lifelong partnership can also be good for your health.
It’s not just that someone else is looking out for you — and noticing that the mole on your back seems to have changed. A study of heart bypass patients over a period of 15 years showed better survival rates among happily married couples.
Now, a new finding might help you say “I do:” Marriage improves survival rates among cancer patients.
Researchers from the University of California, San Diego, studied 393,470 men and 389,697 women from the California Cancer Registry diagnosed between 2000 and 2009 and followed them through 2012.
According to the new study, published in the journal Cancer, single men were 27 percent more likely to die than their married peers were; unmarried women were 19 percent more likely to die.
Married people typically have better health insurance and reside in better neighborhoods, but even after adjusting for these socioeconomic factors, single people still fared worse. With adjustment, the risk of death among unmarried men was 22 percent higher, and among single women 15 percent higher.
“The result was explained a little bit by economic resources, but there’s still something else. We concluded that it is likely something having to do with greater social support,” says study leader Scarlett Lin Gomez. The social support marriage offers comes in both tangible and emotional forms.
Tangible support, according to Gomez, is having someone else always on hand to help you out. “Another set of hands to help with driving you to appointments, having someone manage things around the house so you have less to worry about, helping with processing through volumes and volumes of information that patients are given.”
Being able to lean on another person allows for emotional support, meaning that you have “a shoulder to cry on, being there to listen, being a buffer to help during this stressful major live event,” Gomez says.
Other factors that may play into the benefits of marriage are married individuals tend to be more likely to engage in healthy lifestyles, like eating healthier and exercising. This helps boost an individual’s wellness in general and can prolong life.
Gomez is quick to add that the study isn’t advocating that people get married solely for this purpose. She says the results are more about the benefits of having social support and demonstrating the importance of maintaining a social network, even if you’re single or your marriage is less than ideal.
“A strong support system, whether through other family, coworkers, neighbors and friends, is important for emotional health and potentially for longevity itself,” Gomez says.