Companionship, understanding, physical comfort, confirmation—these are just some of the positive aspects of being married—and for Boomers, as the years fly by, that can mean being married for a long time. In the ‘70s when I was married, many of my close friends from high school and college were also married, and to date those marriages are still going strong. As a result, the members of these marriages have had few health issues. Is there a connection? Will we continue to live long and healthy lives?
Marriage Keeps A Couple Healthy
- Peter Martin, professor of human development and family studies at Iowa State University says YES. “Marriage, if you stay married, is wonderful social support. Being married is a big factor in survivorship.” His research published in Annals of Behavioral Medicine revealed that if one of the partners develops a chronic disease, the presence of a partner is protective against premature death. The study also found that people who never married were twice as likely to die earlier than people in stable marriages.
- Another study done in 2013 that examined 15,330 cardiac events found that married people for the most part had a better prognosis than single folks.
- The presence of a partner often means someone observing health changes. Examples: finding a mole on a partner’s back that looks dark or uneven, discovering a breast lump or noting in your spouse a lack of energy, appetite, stamina, or some mental changes. These concerns contribute to early cancer detection and thus reduce the chance of death from cancer.
- And as we age, the presence of a partner doubles our chances of “keeping it going.” A partner is there if we fall, if we forget to take medications, need assistance with a device that aids in walking or recovering from surgery. A partner is there to keep the conversation going and provide a more stimulating environment. And being touched—the presence of another human being—contribute to wanting to wake up each morning and simply live. All humans need some form of love and human contact.
- One of the things that Martin stresses is the symbiosis in a marriage—both partners benefit from this mutual relationship. And because they do, their interest is to protect the marriage—thus they will more readily improve a diet if diagnosed with diabetes, exercise if the doctor tells them to, stimulate their brains with reading or puzzles—because they want to continue to be a vital part of the partnership. Martin says that this formation of good health habits often continues even after the death of one of the partners.
When A Marriage Isn’t Working
- For those marriages that are not working out and yet the couple is still together, researchers have found increased stress hormones in both partners blood.
- Stress increases the chance of inflammation in the body and inflammation is the perfect milieu for the development of disease.
Marriage Benefits a Man’s Health More Than A Woman’s
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that this symbiosis in marriage benefits the health of the male partner more than the female. The Terman Life Cycle Study found that divorced women lived about as long as their married peers, but married men lived quite a bit longer than their divorced or remarried peers. When a woman loses her husband, she is often able to go on—in some cases because she is no longer caring for an ill husband there is less stress. And she is able to get social support from her female friends.
Finally, research has given a name to those couples who die within days of one another. Broken-heart syndrome, which medically is really stress-induced cardiomyopathy, can be caused by the loss of this person who has been your other-half for decades. Medically it’s probably not a heart attack, but rather many stress hormones that cause the heart to temporarily expand and thus its ability to pump becomes limited.
Vaccines: Are you immunocompromised, over 65, traveling, a gardener? If so read below and TALK TO YOUR CARE PROVIDER.
To support a happy marriage and stay healthy, check out the following list of adult immunizations. There might be one on the list that you definitely need to consider getting. Talk to your doctor.
Immunization Schedule from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (these are from 2014)
- Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) This vaccine has prevented meningitis and other systemic infections in children. If you are immunocompromised or have a high-risk medical condition, ask your physician about Hib.
- Hepatitis A Spread through the fecal-oral route through poor personal hygiene Hep A is a source of foodborne illness. This vaccine is indicated for: adults with chronic liver disease, people receiving clotting factors, men who have sex with men, and people traveling to countries with high rates of hepatitis A.
- Hepatitis B Spread through blood and body fluids, Hep B can lead to chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis and liver cancer. People with liver and kidney disease should have Hep B.
- Human papilloma virus (HPV) Though many adults are infected with one or more strains of HPV, often the immune system can clear the infection. Pap smears detect HPV. A small percentage of women with HPV can develop cervical cancer. Gardasil and Cervarix are two different vaccines. Talk to your doctor.
- Influenza 36,000 people in the U.S. die of influenza or its complications every year. Get a flu shot, especially if you are 65 or older.
- Meningococcal disease College students living in dormitories and adults without a spleen should be vaccinated.
- Measles, mumps and rubella MMR is recommended for adults born after 1956, unless they have had these diseases and can document immunity.
- Pneumococcal disease Fights getting pneumonia. Adults 65 and older should receive one dose of PPSV23 and one dose of PCV13.
- Tetanus and diphtheria (Td) and tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) Pertussis is whopping cough and there has been a resurgence. Those 65 and older having contact with infants should be vaccinated. If you garden and cut yourself, you could be exposed to tetanus in the soil. Keep your tetanus up to date—every ten years it should be renewed.
My husband and I look out for each other’s health. We enjoy cooking inventive and healthy meals together and we walk together almost every day. Sharing articles or books that we have read, seeing a film or listening to music, debating any issue that we feel strongly about, traveling to new places–all contribute to communication, sharing and keeping our brains active. Life is a journey and sharing it with my husband and family makes approaching each day fulfilling and worthwhile. Wishing the same for all of you. Any other ideas for keeping us on the planet? Please share.
Thanks to Getty Images
Thanks to TBO, the Tampa Tribune