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Health, marriage go together like horse and carriage
MANY men fear being "under the saya" (henpecked) upon getting married, but according to scientific studies, the "influence" their wives have over their lifestyle habits makes them live longer. Okay, I know what some of you smart alecks out there are going to say--the "suffering" that comes after the engagement ring and the wedding ring only makes it seem like men are living longer.
But, seriously, a 20-year study from the University of Warwick has found that marriage actually causes changes in a man's brain, making him feel more contented. The study said a married man could expect to live an average of three years more than a bachelor.
Social control theory
"Social control" is the politically correct term for the "under the saya" theory that researchers say is one reason married people live healthier lives. Studies show that people's lifestyle habits change for the better after they get married.
Researchers call it living a more "orderly lifestyle." No more late-night parties, out-of-control drinking binges and skipped meals. It may sound boring but in the long run, marriage is definitely better for your health.
Social support theory
The other reason is called the "social support theory." Human beings are hard-wired to seek out the support and approval of other human beings.
Clinical psychologist Robert Coombs of the University of California in Los Angeles told Scout News that if a marriage is good, having a supportive partner to listen and always be there is like having a live-in psychiatrist.
Some people may not like to hear this, but researchers have found that even gay couples and unmarried heterosexual couples living together reap the same health benefits as traditionally married couples as long as the partners are exclusively committed to the relationship and living together harmoniously.
The emotional health of your marriage can be an accurate barometer of your physical and mental health. Take, for example, blood pressure. In a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, Canadian psychiatrist Brian Baker found that unhappily married people with mild hypertension had higher blood pressure readings in the presence of their spouses and lower readings when they were away from them.
After a couple of years of remaining in their deteriorating marriages, they had a thickening of the left ventricle of their heart, a condition that can lead to heart failure. The happily married people actually had lower blood pressure readings when they were with their spouses.
With scientific evidence like this, I would not be surprised if, in the future, the "my-marriage-is-bad-for-my-health" defense will become a valid justification for separation or divorce.
There is bad news, though, for those with normal blood pressure. Baker says that although further studies still have to confirm it, he does not believe that marital problems alone can actually cause high blood pressure in people who are already not predisposed to it.
But not to worry, there are many more health conditions associated with marital problems that you can use in your defense.
Other studies are finding that marriage is beneficial to the health and well being of not just men but women, too.
Of course, it depends on what kind of a marriage you have. If your marriage is like hell on earth, it will eventually take its toll on your health, not to mention your disposition and outlook in life. A good marriage, meanwhile, will help you live a long and healthy life.
Research confirms that married people live the longest, followed by people who have never married, while separated and divorced people have shorter lives. It appears that it is better not to have married at all than to have entered into a bad marriage.
Illness, bad marriage linked
Studies have found that a bad marriage can give you gum disease and stomach and intestinal ulcers. Marital arguments can cause negative changes in your endocrinal and immune system. Stressful conversations with your spouse can boost the levels of stress hormones, cortisol and epinephrine, and keep them elevated for more than 22 hours after the argument.
Psychologists Wendy Troxel and Karen Matthews of the University of Pittsburgh have found that bad marriage can make a woman more prone to dying from cardiovascular disease. The unhappily married women they studied had higher blood pressure and cholesterol than women who had happy marriages. The conclusion of the researchers was that a good marriage protects a woman from strokes and heart attacks.
Troxel told the American Psychosomatic Society, "Women might think that they're shrugging off a miserable relationship, but their body feels it."
So, ladies, if you are in an emotionally abusive marriage, it may not be so smart to just grit your teeth and stoically endure your fate. It can eventually cost you your life.
Ohio State psychologist Janice Kiecolt-Glaser told USA Today that verbal conflicts in marriage affect women more than men and also lead them to become more ill than their partners. She said that women are much more physically responsive than men to interactions in their marriage.
Women, she explained, remember the arguments in detail. True enough, a 1998 study revealed that discontented married women experienced increases in blood pressure readings just from merely thinking about the fights they had with their husbands.
A 2002 study published in Diabetes Care determined that happily married diabetics manage their condition more successfully than their unhappily married counterparts. The research authors wrote, "This study provides prospective evidence that marital quality predicts diabetes-related quality of life. The marital relationship can be a major support or a significant source of stress."
Psychologist John Gottman of the University of Washington has found that a bad marriage increases your chances of getting sick by 35 percent. Meanwhile, several studies have documented that if you do get sick, a problematic marriage will make your illness more severe.
On the other hand, if you have a supportive partner, you will actually recover faster. Psychiatrist James Coyne notes, "A good marriage can give a person a reason to stay alive. Even when your own determination to get better wavers, the commitment to your partner puts you back on track."
Good marriage life preserver
Linda Waite, sociologist and author of "The Case for Marriage," says, "Marriage is sort of like a life preserver or a seat belt. We can put it exactly in the same category as eating a good diet, getting exercise, and not smoking."
Gottman, who is also the author of "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work," believes a good marriage is even more important for your health than regular exercise. He told The Toronto Sun, "Working on your marriage every day will do more for your health and longevity than working out at a health club."
And for all you "mama's boys" out there: One of Gottman's basic rules for a good marriage is couples should develop a sense of "we-ness." He says trouble usually looms between a man's wife and his mother. He advises the man to side with his wife.
Next week: Why marriage can make you fat and what you can do about it