Seldom do I hear good things about being married. The divorce rate in America is somewhere between 40 and 50 percent, which means that almost half the married population is stressed out and miserable. But then it also means that the other half of the population lives in less stressful, happy marriages.
Why don’t we hear about the laid-back happily married half? Because we spend our time complaining about what we don’t like to anyone who will listen. It’s human nature. The things that bother us stay predominately on our mind and beg to be shared. Once the frustrations are voiced and discussed, there is seldom time for happy talk. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I came across this article talking about the healthy aspects of marriage.
Personally, I have found marriage to be the most difficult job I have ever had. A lasting marriage is no easy feat and it doesn’t just happen. There are years of giving and giving followed by compromises and frustrations. It takes the commitment of both people to keep the bond intact.
I am 22 years into my marriage and as hard as it has been, it has also been good. When things are not going well either in my own in endeavors or in our marriage, I know that when all is said and done my husband will be standing there at the end of the road and we will move forward together. He may not stand there smiling, but he’s there. Now, it appears that our commitment to the marriage may keep us healthier than our divorce or unmarried counterparts.
Stress, especially prolonged stress, is associated with a higher level of cortisol. High levels of cortisol interfere with the body’s ability to regulate inflammation and thus the development of psychological and physical ailments arise in response.
Elevated cortisol levels impact the body in other ways as well. The release of cortisol into the body increases sugars into the bloodstream and slows the function of nonessential body
functions. This is important because in a fight or flight situation you would not want to suddenly have an overwhelming desire for a sandwich or the urge to use the bathroom.
Normally, once the threat has passed the cortisol levels return to normal. However, if you are in a constant state of stress, the release of this hormone stays elevated. Long-term exposure to high levels of cortisol can make your body feel like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz, before he got oiled up.
This constant state of stress puts you at risk for several health problems including:
- Digestive problems
- Weight gain
- Sleep disorders
- Heart disease
- Cognitive impairments/impaired memory
If these aren’t enough reasons to act against life’s stressors, then also consider your emotional well-being. Living in a state of frustration and depression seriously lowers quality of life which in turn causes more stress and more unhappiness and more sickness.
Learn healthy ways to control the stress that arises in your life. You can start by putting a smile on your face. Doing so sends signals to your brain that can improve your mood.
Apparently, another thing you can do is get married.
It’s not all bad after all
According to the article in Science Daily, a study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University offers the “first biological evidence” that marriage impacts health. Researchers discovered that married people had lower levels of cortisol, (stress hormone) than people who had never married or had been previously married.
The researchers collected saliva samples over a three-day period from 572 healthy adults between ages 21-55. The cortisone levels in the saliva were tested at different times during each 24-hour period.
What they found was that married participants had lower cortisol levels than the previously married and never married people over the three-day period. Cortisol levels change throughout the day with the peak time being when you wake then declining as the day goes on. When the groups were compared, married people’s stress hormone declined at a faster rate. Lower cortisol levels, as well as a faster decline of cortisol, has been associated with less heart disease, less physical pain and longer survival among cancer patients.
If you’re happy and you know it…
Now, before anyone says, “what about this or that…” I realize that some people do not get married for whatever reason and live happy satisfying lives. I also know that marriages exist that are abusive and dangerous and associated with an exorbitant amount of stress. Those are opposite sides of the spectrum and this study looked straight down the middle. Take it for what it’s worth.
We all travel different paths as we head down the road to happiness. If you are happy being single, enjoy it. If you dove into matrimony with the love of your life, embrace it. If you are considering saying “I do,” go ahead and do it. It looks like it just might be better for your health.
- Carnegie Mellon University. (2017, February 13). Married people have lower levels of stress hormone. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 21, 2017 from sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170213131232.htm
- Brian Chin, Michael L.M. Murphy, Denise Janicki-Deverts, Sheldon Cohen. Marital status as a predictor of diurnal salivary cortisol levels and slopes in a community sample of healthy adults. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 2017; 78: 68 DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2017.01.016