Is Marriage Good For Your Health? The Influential Role Of Marital Quality And Life Events On Individual-Level Health And Well-Being
Over a century of research suggests that marriage is good for one's health. Specifically, individuals who are married experience, on average, longer and healthier lives than their unmarried counterparts. However, these aggregate findings mask significant differences within each of these groups. Utilizing data from the Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS I and II; N = 1,805) dataset, the current project addresses three research questions: 1) What are the long-term health consequences of low-quality marital relationships? 2) How does the accumulation of life events influence the health and well-being of individuals who experienced a divorce? and 3) What types of social support - if any - effectively buffer the negative impact of a low-quality marriage on individual-level health and well-being? Several key findings emerged from the three main research questions. First, individuals who remain in a long-term, low-quality marriage will report significantly lower levels of well-being than individuals in a high-quality marriage. Second, the accumulation of life events plays an important role in the relationship between exposure to events and health and well-being. More specifically, individuals who are exposed to parental divorce during childhood experience better health and well-being following their own divorce than individuals whose parents were continually married. Importantly, this suggests that the mere accumulation of stressors over the life course does not necessarily equate to negative health outcomes. Rather, the type of stressors an individual is exposed to is key to understanding life course health and well-being. Finally, the social support mechanism that operates to ameliorate the health consequences of negative marital interactions is highly specific. Further research is necessary to identify which types of support (e.g. kin, friend, job) improve specific aspects of well-being (e.g. happiness, depression, anxiety).
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