Anyone who is married or has been married can tell you that it isn’t always easy.
In fact, marriage can be downright hard work.
In all the negatives though, there have always been a few positives. Companionship, love, someone to share the highs and lows of everyday life with, and, better health. But not anymore.
Yes, until recently, studies had always shown that marriage had positive health benefits, with single people shown to be more likely to die of conditions such as type 2 diabetes than their married counterparts with the same conditions.
In the past marriage has even been linked to such benefits as fewer heart attacks and strokes, lower risk of depression, and even an increased life span.
However, a new study published this month shows that the protective health benefits of marriage may no longer exist at all!
The study, published in the journal Social Science Quarterly compared married people born between 1955 and 1984 and showed that while the older generations experienced better overall health with marriage, the positive effect has diminished over time.
The health benefits were only shown in marriages that lasted more than 10 years, and, significantly, only women benefited.
This positive health effect “was completely attenuated among women in the youngest birth cohort,” wrote study author Dmitry Tumin, a sociology researcher at the Ohio State University, meaning that when compared to their never-married counterparts, the younger women in the study did not receive any health benefits from their marriage.
While it is not known exactly why the shift in marital health bliss has occurred, researchers had a few ideas.
These include the fact that the stigma of remaining single is shrinking, the age of people getting married for the first time is rising, the wider availability of living support (for example, living with parents for longer, or living with housemates longterm), and the fact that women are now able to achieve a higher level of economic freedom independently than previous generations.
It is also suggested that marriage these days may be more stressful than in the past.
“Work-family conflict has increased in the closing decades of the 20th century, and spouses’ actual time spent together has decreased over this period,” Tumin wrote.
“Against a backdrop of greater demands at home and at work, and less time spent together, today’s married couples may indeed experience marriage more as a source of conflict and stress than as a resource that safeguards their health.”