The Benefits of Marriage
Updated: Jun 19, 2019
by Richard Brierley
Traditional marriage isn’t as popular or fashionable as it has been in the past for all sorts of societal reasons, but it seems that this trend may be causing men to be losing out.
A large survey of over 120,000 adults has shown that married men are on average significantly healthier than unmarried men. They live longer, are less likely to die from all causes and the longer they stay married the greater the survival advantage over their unmarried friends.
A large study of cardiovascular disease from Japan has shown that men who have never married are 3 times more likely to die from coronary heart disease than married men. Also, although marriage doesn’t seem to reduce the likelihood of actually getting cancer, it does result in being much more likely to survive it. Unmarried men tend to present with the disease at a more advanced stage and are less likely to survive the treatment.
Marriage tends to give you around twice as long to live following a cancer diagnosis.
This was initially assumed to be simply because healthier men are more likely to get married in the first place and it’s just down to this, but research has shown that unhealthy men are actually more likely to get married younger, more likely to stay married and more likely to remarry after a divorce. So what could be going on?
To be honest I am not in the slightest bit surprised by these findings. I work in a busy GP surgery looking after people from all walks of life. 50% of my patients are men, but far fewer than 50% of the appointments I have are with men. It is really clear that men simply don’t go to see their doctor until there is no other choice. I have seen countless cases of men who have clearly been brought to see me by their wives who will frequently interrupt their husbands to correct them when they try to downplay their symptoms. I’m also constantly hearing the line “Sorry Doc, I wouldn’t have bothered you but the Missus said I had to”, and it’s often a jolly good thing she did too as otherwise they would have ignored a serious or occasionally even life threatening problem.
So in my opinion us married men have our good lady wives to thank for our good health. I’m a great admirer of the stoical “stiff upper lip” attitude that characterises good old-fashioned masculinity, but I’m afraid it isn’t always in our best interests.
The fact is, nobody knows for sure why there is such a survival advantage attached to being married. Perhaps it’s because unmarried men are more likely to eat unhealthily, drink more heavily, smoke, take less exercise and generally be involved in more risky activities. Perhaps loneliness or social isolation is an issue.
What is equally interesting is it turns out the opposite is true for women. They are actually more likely to live longer if they stay unmarried. I won’t even begin to guess why that might be!
So if you are unmarried and reading this, don’t be concerned, but do have a think about those things that you do that perhaps your married friends aren’t doing as much.
Could you eat less junk, drink less booze, stop smoking or take more exercise? And if you are married then perhaps there is something else you have to say “thank you” to your wife for. She might just be keeping you alive and you hadn’t even realised it!
Richard Brierly is a freelance GP who works in the Eastbourne area.
Richard is married with three sons, and is particularly interested in the natural world; he loves spending time out in the beautiful Sussex countryside.
Richard and his family live in Eastbourne, East Sussex.