A New York Times blogger recently wrote about a study of blood pressure, particularly the dip that, apparently, often occurs at night and is good for your health. I don’t know much about blood pressure, but I do know when a marital status study is using a cheater technique, and I bet that long-time readers of this blog do, too.
I like to read the original articles of studies I critique, but sometimes, before you even crack open an academic journal, there are tell-tale clues that you are about to get fed a load of matrimaniacal crap.
Consider the following sentence (in italics, below). Read it and tell yourself what’s wrong with the study before you read any further. If you know the answer, you are smarter and/or better informed than the New York Times blogger who wrote the post.
“People who were married—especially men—were much more likely to exhibit this ‘nocturnal dipping’ than those who were not married…”
Then, of course, the writer does the utterly predictable, and scientifically indefensible, thing of speculating as to why married people are better (healthier) than single people, when that “fact” had never been convincingly established. The usual bogus explanations are invoked.
My blood is boiling, and it is not because I am single.
So do you have your answer?
Here’s mine: The study is using a cheater technique. By looking only at those people who are currently married, and setting aside anyone who got married, hated it, and then got divorced, the researchers are selectively including only those people who got married and stayed married. Do you think that marriage was good for the blood pressure of all of those people—more than 40%—who got divorced? No, neither do I.
That’s for starters. There are other problems, too. I’ve explained what’s wrong with these kinds of studies over and over again, here and elsewhere. That’s why I think that most of the readers of this blog could have written a more scientifically respectable account of the study than the NY Times blogger did. Well, at least the title of the story was, “Marriage may be good for your health,” and not, “Marriage is good for your health.”
If you are new to critiques of this genre of pseudo-scientific celebrations of marriage, or just want to (re)read more, try these:
Getting married and (not) getting healthier
Getting married and (not) getting to live longer
Getting married and (not) getting happier
More on what getting married won’t get you
On another topic: Elsewhere, I’ve been writing more about solitude. If you are interested:
6 psychological insights about solitude
20 varieties of solitude