Couples who fight should get help; happy marriages keep you healthy for the long-term.
A new study from Brigham Young University (BYU), published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, says that people in happy marriages are less sick and enjoy a healthier life.
The 20-year longitudinal study that tracked the health and marriage quality of 1,681 married people, found that as the quality of marriage holds up over the years, physical health holds up too. Marital quality was measured in terms of happiness and satisfaction and in terms of marital problems ― such as fighting about money or in-laws. Next, respondents rated their health on a 1 (excellent) to 4 (poor) scale. The results showed that those with higher marital conflict were more likely to report poor health.
Rick Miller, study lead and BYU family life researcher, said “there’s evidence from previous research that marital conflict leads to poor health, but this study also shows happy marriages have a preventative component that keeps you in good health over the years.” A previous BYU study found that meaningful relationships help individuals live longer.
“The implication is that marital conflict is a risk factor for poor health,” Miller said, adding that “couples that fight or argue frequently should get professional help to reduce their conflict because it is affecting their health.”
In a BYU press release, researchers said they hoped that policy makers notice the growing research on the importance of marriage. They say for example that health insurance should cover marriage counseling, because “it can help shore up marriage and prevent future health problems.” They said that supporting a happy marriage also tends to inspire habits that lead to better health, because “happily married spouses encourage one another to stay current on doctor’s appointments, sleep better, drink less and participate in healthy activities.” They also support each other and empathize with each other during difficult times, which reduces stress and prevents illness.