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Married Couples Report Better Health, Expert Says

Update Date: Feb 14, 2013 08:24 AM EST

Happily married couples are more likely to report better health than people who are single or divorced, according to new research.

Christine Proulx, an assistant professor in the MU Department of Human Development and Family Studies, who conducted the study, says that people need to put more effort in making their relationships work, as it can have a positive impact on the health and well-being of the couple as they grow older.

"We often think about the aging process as something we can treat medically with a pill or more exercise, but working on your marriage also might benefit your health as you age. Engaging with your spouse is not going to cure cancer, but building stronger relationships can improve both people's spirits and well-being and lower their stress," Proulx said.

A recent study paper showed that marriage affects people differently based on various factors, like it has positive effects on the health of men who were less educated, but has negative effects on women who had higher education. Another related study had found that marriage can improve a woman's health, but doesn't improve men's health.

A recent study conducted by Dr. Ilene Siegler and colleagues from Duke University Medical Center, published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, had found that marriage can cut the risk of heart attacks.

The present study included 707 continuously married adults who participated in the Marital Instability Over the Life Course panel study.

Proulx found that positive and negative relationships affected a person's overall health. She adds that people must be aware that that their reaction to stresses in life affects even their spouse's health.

"Physicians should recognize that the strength of patients' marriages might affect their health. I suspect we'd have higher rates of adherence to treatment plans for chronic illnesses if medical professionals placed more of an emphasis on incorporating families and spouses in patients' care. If spouses understand their partners' disease and how to treat it at home, and the couple has a strong marriage, both people's health could improve," she said in a news release.

The study will be published in the Journal of Family Psychology.

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