Hormone explains why people are happier in marriage
22 Feb 2017 - 18:54
London: Married couples may be healthier than single, divorced or widowed adults at least in part because they have lower levels of a stress hormone associated with a variety of medical problems, a recent study suggests.
Previous research has linked marriage to a longer life and other health benefits, which could be due to the relationship itself or to other factors like higher household income, better medical insurance or improved access to care. The current study, however, offers fresh insight into another possible benefit of marriage: less stress.
For the study, researchers tested levels of cortisol, a hormone released under stress, in 572 healthy men and women aged 21 to 55. They found married individuals consistently had lower cortisol levels than people who never married or who were previously married.
"Our findings provide new and important initial insights into how our most intimate social relationships can ‘get under the skin’ to impact physical health," said lead study author Brian Chin, a psychology researcher at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Being married might help encourage people to stick to a healthier lifestyle or avoid behaviors that can lead to illness like smoking, he explained.
To assess stress levels based on marital status, the research team collected multiple cortisol samples throughout the day from each participant on three separate days.
The 292 people who never married were younger, averaging around 29 years old, compared with about 37 years old for the 160 married individuals in the study and an average age of 40 for the 56 adults who were previously married.