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Happy Marriages Lead to Healthier Couples

Update Date: Sep 25, 2013 02:18 PM EDT

When people get married, they start a whole new chapter as they build and expand their social networks. Studies have found that an expansive social network, particularly one that is made up of family members, is beneficial for one's health. In a recent study, researchers reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology that cancer patients who are married have better survival rates than cancer patients who are not married. Now, in a new study that gathered 20 years of data, researchers reported that marriages that are happy result in healthier spouses.

In this long-term study, researchers looked at the marriages of 1, 681 people. The team composed of Richard B. Miller from Brigham Young University and David Law from Utah State created a growth curve analysis. They examined the data provided by Penn State researchers collected from 1980 to 2000 in a federally funded research study analyzing the causes of marriage instability on over 2,000 married people. The researchers of the new study divided the data into two cohorts, which were people aged 18 to 39 and people aged 40 to 55. The researchers proceeded to compare the ups and downs of marriage in both groups.

Since there are multiple factors involved in a marriage, the researchers acknowledged the fact that they would not be able to tease out individual cause and effect relationships. They found a strong correlation between having a happy marriage and remaining healthy in both groups. The researchers also noted that at the beginning of the study, the younger cohort had better health but developed more problems that led to less happiness later on in their marriages. The team also found that a reduction in marital problems led to an improvement in health for the older group.

The researchers measured marital happiness on an 11-question scale. The questionnaire asked the couples about multiple aspects of their relationship, such as the level of understanding between them, the number of joint activities performed together and the level of affection and love they received. Marital issues were measured on a 13-point scale. This questionnaire focused on anger, financial complications, jealously and infidelity. The researchers also asked all participants to rank their health as excellent, good, fair or poor.

"We wanted to compare the health trajectory with the happiness trajectory," Co-author Cody Hollist, a marriage and family therapy expert from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln reported by Medical Xpress, said. "As health worsens, do their marriages stay stable? What we found is that there's a relationship between health and happiness for both age groups. If their health is good, their happiness is up."

The study was published in the Journal of Marriage and Family

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