Solid, nuanced article…

Solid, nuanced article on the effect of marriage / cohabitation on your health and well-being.

Basic result -- good, happy relationships make you on average quite a bit healthier than single people. But single people are healthier than people in bad, unhappy marriages / relationships -- and also healthier than those who are widowed -- the 'marriage advantage' goes away with your partner. Remarriage also only helps your health marginally, which surprised me; it's first marriages/partnerships that have a strong health-giving effect.

The article is worth reading in detail, even if you're not avoiding your grading. This, for example, was the most interesting to me:

Smiths results suggest that there are important differences between men and women when it comes to health and the style of conflict that can jeopardize it. The women in his study who were at highest risk for signs of heart disease were those whose marital battles lacked any signs of warmth, not even a stray term of endearment during a hostile discussion (Honey, youre driving me crazy!) or a minor pat on the back or squeeze of the hand, all of which can signal affection in the midst of anger. Most of the literature assumes that its how bad the arguments get that drives the effect, but its actually the lack of affection that does it, Smith told me. It wasnt how much nasty talk there was. It was the lack of warmth that predicted risk.

For men, on the other hand, hostile and negative marital battles seemed to have no effect on heart risk. Men were at risk for a higher coronary calcium score, however, when their marital spats turned into battles for control. It didnt matter whether it was the husband or wife who was trying to gain control of the matter; it was merely any appearance of controlling language that put men on the path of heart disease.

In both cases, the emotional tone of a marital fight turned out to be just as predictive of poor heart health as whether the individual smoked or had high cholesterol. It is worth noting that the couples in Smiths study were all relatively happy. These were husbands and wives who loved each other. Yet many of them had developed styles of conflict that took a physical toll on each other. The solution, Smith noted, isnt to stop fighting. Its to fight more thoughtfully. Difficulties in marriage seem to be nearly universal, he said. Just try not to let fights be any nastier than they need to be.

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