Your spouse may drive you crazy with their snoring, or push you to the brink of madness with any number of strange and annoying habits – but your spouse could be saving your life on a daily basis.
According to new research, married cancer patients are more likely to survive the illness than those who are single and develop the disease. Death rates among unmarried patients are higher, with the difference markedly more noticeable among single men.
Researchers at the University of California, led by Maria Elena Martinez, acknowledged that whilst the effect could be explained by married people being better off and having better health insurance, “social support” was also a key factor.
So could there be other hidden health benefits that come with getting hitched? Or are you putting up with those dirty socks and nagging texts for nothing?
1. Less chance of heart attacks
Marriage reduces the risk of heart attacks for both men and women, according to doctors in Finland.
Women with a significant other were found to be up to 65 per cent less likely to have a heart attack, while men were 66pc less likely. Dr Aino Lammintausta, the lead researcher at Finland’s Turku University and author of the 2013 study, observed that “the study suggests that marriage reduces the risk of acute coronary events and death in both men and women of all ages.”
Lammintausta and her team concluded that married people may be better off financially, live healthier lives and have more friends and therefore social support.
Those with spouses could also rely on somebody close to call an ambulance, the researchers added.
2. Encourages safer behaviour
Married couples are considerably less likely to engage in risky behaviour, such as substance abuse or dangerous driving, according to top psychologist and Ohio State University researcher Dr Christopher Fagundes.
Fagundes observed that people’s propensity for indulging in dangerous pursuits drops significantly once they have moved in together – falling yet further after they tie the knot.
One theory to explain the findings is that married people are more aware that they have somebody who depends on them, and therefore they make the conscious decision to put self-preservation above all else.
3. Less chance of strokes
Married men were found to have a 64pc lower chance of fatal strokes than single men, according to a report published by the American Stroke Association.
The study, conducted by Professor Uro Goldbourt of Tel Aviv University, Israel, also discovered that marriage satisfaction could affect your chances of avoiding strokes – as the 3.6pc of men who reported unhappiness in their marriages experienced a less significant advantage to those who considered their marriages to be very successful.
“Maybe summoning help in the case of suspected stroke took longer among those who were unmarried,” theorised Goldbourt. “If that were true, perhaps the probability to survive a stroke would be lower among those living alone.”
4. Lower stress levels
Getting hitched can drastically reduce your chances of becoming overly stressed or depressed.
In a report published by the University of Chicago, it was found that having a strong long-term bond can alter your hormones in a way which affects stress. Men’s testosterone levels were found to drop, making them less headstrong, and cortisol levels fell in both sexes – a hormone that is required to regulate stress.
“Although marriage can be pretty stressful, it should make it easier for people to handle other stressors in their lives,” Dario Maestripieri, Professor in Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago and lead author of the study said. “What we found is that marriage has a dampening effect on cortisol responses to psychological stress, and can therefore act as a buffer against stress.”
5. Higher chance of recovering from major surgery
A supportive spouse could be the key to recovering from invasive medical procedures, such as coronary bypass surgery, a 2011 study suggests.
Happily wedded patients who undergo major surgery are more than three times as likely to still be alive 15 years later when compared to their unmarried counterparts, says Kathleen King, a researcher from the University of Rochester.
“There is something in a good relationship that helps people stay on track,” says King. “In fact, the effect of marital satisfaction is every bit as important to survival after bypass surgery as more traditional risk factors like tobacco use, obesity, and high blood pressure.”
6. Less chance of developing mental illness
Married men and women are also considerably less likely to develop severe mental illness, according to a 1991 American study.
Social psychiatrists Lee Robins and Darrel Regier published a paper showing how “married people have significantly lower rates of severe depression and at least half the likelihood of developing any other major recognised psychiatric disorder than never-married, cohabiting or divorced people.”
7. Better sleep
If your marriage is a happy one, you sleep better than your dissatisfied or single counterparts.
Wendy Troxel, a psychologist at the University of Pittsburgh, found that women were particularly boosted by marriage. Wives were found to have a 10pc better chance of getting a good night’s sleep than those who were unmarried.
“Marriage can be good for your sleep if it’s a happy one,” said Troxel. “But, being in an unhappy marriage can be a risk factor for sleep disturbance. If you’re not sleeping, you’re more irritable, have lower frustration and tolerance levels, so it’s possible that could affect the marriage.”
8. You live for longer
The big one – longevity. Research has continuously shown that by jumping the broom you are effectively adding a couple of extra years to your life and, in some instances, up to ten.
The most-cited study on this subject was penned by Dr Ilene Siegler and her research team from the Duke University Medical Centre. After studying almost 5,000 individuals born in the 1940s, the authors observed how stability and change in the patterns of midlife marital status affected health risks.
They discovered that having a partner through middle and old age is protective against premature death: those who never married were more than twice as likely to die early than those who had experienced a long, stable marriage throughout the majority of their adult life.