Can you determine the overall health and happiness of people based on their marital status? One study tried — and found that married people consistently rank happier and healthier than those divorced or unmarried.
While it’s difficult to nail down an exact percentage, between 40 and 50 percent of married American couples go through a divorce, and another 63.5 percent of people aged 18 or older were unmarried as of 2016, reports the study. So researchers wanted to see how staying together, splitting up, or just choosing to remain single, actually affects our health.
The passage of time brings decreasing health, no matter the marital status, the study found. But there good news for the partnered crowd, the study found that being married in middle age could prevent premature death.
As for weight:
Respondents’ BMIs were fairly similar overall regardless of marital status, but those who were married did have a slight edge, at 27.6 on average. Individuals who had never been married were the heaviest, with an average BMI of 28.5, with divorced people in the middle at 28. Married people in their early- to mid-20s were the group to buck this trend. According to the data, 22-year-olds who were either married or divorced had BMIs hovering around 24, whereas their married peers hit 26. It was only at age 29 that married individuals began to consistently exhibit BMIs that were lower than the other two groups.
The highest observed BMI was among married respondents who were age 54, topping the chart at 30.6 on average.
“Middle age has been known to kick off weight gain for many people, sometimes due to hormonal changes from menopause. In general, aging is associated with a lower resting metabolic rate, which means fewer calories are burned during periods of inactivity,” reports the study, which found a “significant correlation between marriage and weight gain, with parenthood at the root of further spikes in weight.”
Is anyone happy?
On a scale from one to ten, married respondents were almost one full point happier than their unmarried and divorced counterparts, says the study.
“It turns out that pairing off with a lifelong companion has its perks, including, but not limited to, a lowered chance of depression, a longer life, and a higher likelihood of surviving a grave illness or major surgery.” According to the survey, a “higher rate of overall life satisfaction is also a reasonable expectation.”
Divorced people bottomed were happiest in their old age, with a 7.3 rate of satisfaction at age 70 and older. Meanwhile, those who never married were at their happiest in their youth and old age.
“If you like it (and want to live a long, healthy, satisfied life), then you should put a ring on it,” the study determines. “Overall, our married respondents were just a little happier and a little lighter than those who were never married or divorced; however, that has no bearing on each person’s desire and ability to live their best life.”
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