Last week, a New York Times op-ed, “Get Married, Get Healthy? Maybe Not,” called into question a large body of research indicating marriage is associated with better health, less depression, and greater well-being. From a rigorous research perspective, some of the earlier studies were indeed methodologically weak, but in the past two decades, that has changed. There are now a number of strong studies that reinforce and demonstrate that marriage—in addition to being a good in and of itself—is associated with better health.
In her New York Times piece, psychologist Bella DePaulo uses a new study out of Switzerland to argue that the effects of marriage on health are, in reality, negligible. A closer examination of the Switzerland study, however, indicates that DePaulo did not tell the full story about the Swiss research. Actually, the study begins by reporting that entry into marriage for unmarried men and women is associated with subsequently lower depression, while divorce is associated with subsequently higher depression. The study also notes even larger effects of moving into marriage on increasing life satisfaction, as well as larger effects of divorce on decreasing life satisfaction. The New York Times article seems to try to sidestep these results, instead drawing attention to the findings on “self-rated health.” In this case, the results from the Switzerland study show that marriage is associated with slightly worse self-rated health compared to always being single and that divorce is associated with worse self-rated health compared to being married.
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