Getting Married and Not Getting Healthy: Decades of Data

Debunking the myth of the health benefits of marrying

Posted Dec 28, 2013

The assumption that if you get married, you will get healthier is so much a part of our conventional wisdom that it is rarely challenged. Back when I was just practicing single life and not studying it, I had no idea that the supposed truism was actually a myth. I figured that out fast, though, once I started going to the original research reports and scrutinizing them. I drew from what I had learned from decades of doing research and teaching graduate courses in research methods, but some of the mental errors in the claims about the research are so egregious that you should not need any formal training to realize how ridiculous they are.

My first comprehensive debunking of the claims about getting married and getting healthy were published in the second chapter of Singled Out. There I describe what is wrong with the research behind those claims, and take a close look at some examples of different kinds of research. Maybe because it was the first time I was spelling it all out, even for myself, that is still, after all these years, my favorite debunking of the myths about getting married.

I’ve kept it up ever since. Whenever a new study about getting married and supposedly getting healthier hits the news, I hit the books. I look up the original study, and see what it actually says. Below are my discussions and critiques, organized into three sections: I. Physical Health, II. Mental Health, and III. Also Relevant.

I also have other collections of links to related topics, such as getting married and not getting happy, and getting married and not getting to live longer. A few readers have asked me to update those collections and post links to them here. I’m hoping to get to those before too long.


Overall Physical Health

The case for marriage is a sham

Singles are ‘catching up’ in health, but who is really in the lead?

American marriages: Happiness and health decline over time

Is good marriage good for your health?

Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?

Marriage and health: Eh tu, New York Times?

Flat out false: Media reports of the health of married couples

Newsweek’s turn to post misleading account of latest marriage study

USA Today’s big new story on marriage peddles same old fallacies

Marriage and genes: Their claims, my qualms

Is it healthier to live with someone?

Serving up same old myths about marriage, with a side of condescension

Does marriage civilize men?

The health hazards of having been married

Weight, Exercise

Latest claim: Getting married makes you fatter because you are having so much fun

Men, women, single, married: Who really exercises more?

Blood Pressure, Stroke, Heart Health

Single men have good hearts

Avoid stroke by marrying? A case study in misrepresentation of marriage findings

Are singles doomed to high blood pressure? Only if they read media reports of the latest study


If you get married, will you sleep better?

Is sharing a bed good for your health? Part 1

Bed-sharing and health, Part 2: Questions you should ask

Sharing a bed, Part 3: How do couples differ on nights when they sleep together vs. apart

Bed-sharing, Part 4: Is marital happiness a magical sleep potion?

Alzheimer’s, Epilepsy

Here are the details of that delirious Alzheimer’s study

Is marriage a special kind of social support?


Will marriage save you from dying of cancer?

What does marriage have to do with surviving cancer? Part 1

Part 2: What does marriage have to do with surviving cancer?

The skeptical reader: How the media, and even academic journals, get things wrong

They survived cancer, only to get bashed by singlism


Overall Mental Health

The fragile spouse and the resilient single person

Wounded warriors: The single ones are the most resilient

Emotional Health

Times reporter thinks single women fear intimacy; I’m afraid he’s wrong

Latest study: Single people do not have attachment problems (Part I)

No attachment issues among single people (Part II): How to make even good findings sound bad

Being coupled ain’t all it’s cracked up to be

Depression, Suicide

Really? Marriage reduces depression?

If you marry, will you be less depressed? Part 1

Part 2: If you marry, will you be less depressed?

Is marriage toxic to women? No, misleading reporting is

Shame on you, APA!

What matters is whether you matter to others

Demanding, critical partners and family members increase risk of depression a decade later

Suicide: Is it less about mental health than integration into society?

Are married people less likely to kill themselves?

Psychopaths, Antisocial Behavior

Actual newspaper headline: ‘Married men better men’

Naughty or nice? Single men and married men


Cracking the code: How to think critically about the alleged superiority of married people

The myth that getting married makes you healthier: Why the investment in it?

In a sudden medical emergency, will a spouse save your life?

The crisis in squishy science and trouble for journalists

Who are you going to believe – the National Marriage Project or your plants?

David Brooks + Sandra Bullock = Matrimania

The topic that turns smart, creative people into mindless spouters of clichés: Part 1

A rant about a rant about marriage: Part 2

The unique challenges of being single and chronically ill: Guest post by Nika Beamon

Feeling misunderstood can increase physical pain

On tax breaks, emotional commitments, and the myth of the transformative power of marriage

Marriage wars: The real fight is over moral superiority

The publication of ‘The Case for Marriage’ kicked up an ideological storm

Men and women who have always been single are doing fine

[Note: Thanks to everyone nudging me to post this and the other collections of links. I’ll also post them to the blog at my personal website.]