A study of heart bypass patients showed better survival, over 15 years, among the happily married. The flip side is also true: Being in an unhappy marriage can be unhealthy. Why? One reason may be that chronic stress from a bad marriage may affect the immune system.
Women may be particularly vulnerable. They’re more sensitive to hostility in a relationship than are men, research found. Also, hostility may hamper the immune system for couples with chronic relationship troubles.
Relationship quality also affects men.
Depression, obesity, and hypertension all can result from women suffering in unhappy marriages. But there is also a lot of substance abuse and depression in male patients in the same situation. Men and women are equally affected by unhappy relationships — the results just manifest differently.
Being a healthy single
Of course, singles can be happy as well.
If someone is single, it may or may not point to a difficulty in establishing close relationships. For some, this is the case. For others, it’s simply that they have not found their life partner yet. The key would be to surround yourself with good people that care for you, and that you are willing to help as well.
The same goes for people who divorce.
Divorce is linked to a greater risk of premature death, especially in men, notes David Sbarra, PhD, associate professor and director of clinical training in the department of psychology at the University of Arizona, Tucson.
But “most divorced adults fare very well in time and enjoy a high quality of life after the end of their marriage,” Sbarra says.
“Therefore, it is likely that if you’re in an unhappy marriage and have tried to work it out but just can’t, divorce is a real and reasonable option. If you divorce and feel happy, then I wouldn’t worry too much about the potential negative health effects.”
Women may fare better on their own than men do.