It’s no secret that a happy marriage takes hard work. After all, we’re only human, and we all make mistakes, have bad days and sometimes even forget to load the dishwasher (again).
Nevertheless, some couples are able to foster happy, healthy, totally awesome marriages that actually do last a lifetime. Now research suggests that sticking with your better-half may benefit your health in more ways than one.
A study published Monday in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology found married couples had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol compared with single or divorced participants. Elevated levels of cortisol can lead to inflammation, which is tied to various chronic ailments like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, researchers noted.
Turns out, several studies suggest your health can stand to benefit from being in a healthy long-term relationship. Here are a just a handful of ways being in a happy marriage may boost your health:
If you’re in a happy marriage you may be less likely to die of cancer
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology of nearly 1.3 million patients diagnosed with various types of cancer found that married men and women were less likely than single people to have disease that had spread, more likely to receive treatment in a timely manner, and less likely to die as a result of their ailment. Men saw a greater overall protective benefit than women, but the association remained true regardless of the type of cancer involved, researchers noted.
Being in a happy marriage may better protect you from heart disease
Being married may significantly reduce a man’s chance of dying from heart disease, a 2007 study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine suggests. After accounting for age, blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), cholesterol, and other lifestyle choices, researchers found that married men were almost half as likely as unmarried men to die 10 years after being diagnosed with heart disease.
… and a Stroke
Being a single or unhappily married man may increase your risk of fatal stroke, according to a 2010 study conducted by the American Heart Association. Researchers’ analysis — which involved about 10,000 Israeli men with an average age of 49 — suggested participants who were dissatisfied with their marriages saw an adjusted risk of fatal stroke that was 64 percent higher than those men who reported having a successful marriage.
“I had not expected that unsuccessful marriage would be of this statistical importance,” lead author Dr. Uri Goldbourt, a professor of epidemiology and preventive medicine at Tel Aviv University in Israel, said in a news release.
Being in a happy marriage may help you heal from a surgery better
In a 2012 study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, married adults who underwent heart surgery were three times as likely as their single counterparts who had the same procedure to survive the next three months. Researchers credited spouses’ caregiving qualities to patients’ increased longevity.
Similarly, a 2011 study published in Health Psychology found that happily married people who underwent heart surgery were more than three times as likely to be alive 15 years after the procedure compared with the single study participants who had the same operation.
You may age more happily if you’re in a happy marriage
Being married may prevent typical declines in happiness seen in adulthood, a 2012 study published online in the Journal of Research in Personality found. The marriage didn’t exactly make people happier but helped them maintain their levels of happiness as the years passed, researchers noted.
6. You may live longer
A 2007 study published in the journal Population Studies found that the death rate among European men over age 40 was twice as high among single men as in married men. The observational research identified an increasing longevity benefit among men and women up to at least age 89.
7. You may enjoy longer overall lasting health
A 20-year longitudinal study of a nationally representative sample of about 1,700 married individuals found that being in a happy marriage was associated with better health habits such as sleeping better, staying current on doctor’s appointments, drinking less and doing healthier activities. “When spouses have a bad day, in a happy marriage, they’re more likely to support each other and empathize with each other,” study author Rick Miller, a family life researcher at Brigham Young University, said in a news release. “That support reduces stress and helps buffer against a decline in health.”