10 Little-Known Ways Marriage Affects Your Health

All the songs are right: Lasting love may really be the best medicine, after all.


Your risk of dementia is lower

There are many everyday habits that lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, which affects one in three seniors, according to data from the Alzheimer’s Association. But you can significantly lower your risk and protect your brain by being married. A new study shows that married men and women have a 43 percent lower chance of developing dementia as they age. So the next time your spouse annoys you and you think you may be better off solo, consider that even by arguing with you, they’re keeping your brain active. Still worried about losing your mind? Make sure you (and your spouse!) are doing these 36 simple things that ward off Alzheimer’s disease.


Your blood pressure will improve

Heart disease is the number one killer of America, yet being married can reduce your risk of developing it, at least by one measure. Happily married folks have lower blood pressure readings than their single peers, according to a study done by Brigham Young University. Researchers monitored blood pressure for a 24-hour period and found that, on average, the married-and-happy couples had the best readings. And this benefit is particular to being betrothed, as even single people with large, supportive social networks did not see the same improvement. Being married is just a start, however. Add these 31 things you can do right now to lower your blood pressure.


Your sex life will be smoking hot

OK, so your sex life may not be on fire (at least not all the time), but it will be better than if you’d stayed single, according to data from the National Health and Social Life Survey. They found that 51 percent of married couples reported they were “extremely satisfied” with their sex life, compared to 39 percent of people who were cohabiting and 36 percent of singles. Married and your sex life is suffering? You’re not alone (after all, only half said their sex life was great). Take heart and try these 45 simple ways to improve your sex life.


You’ll be less stressed

Stress is linked to all kinds of scary health problems including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. But married folks have some protection against the day-to-day stressors, according to a study published in The Journal of Marriage and Family. The key: It has to be a happy marriage. Unhappy marriages, for obvious reasons, make stress worse. “When spouses have a bad day, in a happy marriage, they’re more likely to support each other and empathize with each other,” they wrote. “That support reduces stress and helps buffer against a decline in health.” Find out about the different types of stress—and how to ease them.


You’ll have better lung function

Who doesn’t love the feeling of being able to take in a deep breath of fresh air? Many of us take this small pleasure for granted, but as we age, more and more discover the importance of healthy lungs. And being in a long-term relationship—including marriage and other social arrangements—improves lung function in seniors, according to a study published in Health Psychology. It may not be the sexiest benefit on this list, but trust us, gasping for air is not romantic (not to mention terrifying). It’s also something you should take very seriously: Do you know the silent signs of lung disease?

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You’ll be more likely to survive cancer

While being married doesn’t seem to lessen a person’s risk of getting cancer, it does seem to give them better odds of surviving it, according to research published in the journal CANCER. Scientists looked at the medical records of over 800,000 people and found that single men had a 27 percent higher chance and single women had a 19 percent higher chance of dying after a cancer diagnosis. While this is true, many myths about cancer still persist. Check out these 50 rampant cancer myths that need to die.

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You’ll have a healthier heart

Marriage not only lowers your blood pressure, but also increases heart health overall, for both men and women, according to a study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. And the news gets better: Not only are marrieds less likely to have a heart attack, they’re more likely to survive it if they do.  In the meantime, regardless of your marital status, try these 45 things heart doctors do to protect their own hearts.

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Men will live longer

Married men have better physical health and a longer lifespan, living an average of ten years longer than single men, according to previous research. And one reason why may have to do with the effect being married has on their financial health, as income is the number one predictor of health. Men in long-term relationships not only have higher earnings—to the tune of about $16,000 more annually—but they also have more assets and more job stability compared to bachelors with similar backgrounds and careers, according to a study done by the University of Utah. Unfortunately, this doesn’t hold true for women as they tend to live several years less than their single sisters.

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Women will have better mental health

Married men may get the benefit of more days on this planet but married women are happier during their days. (Plus, women in general still live longer than men do.) Women in happy marriages experience less incidence of depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses than single women, says research published in the BMJ. Why? Having constant social support from their husbands helps women stay saner—well, as long as he’s not clipping his toenails on the carpet. Bonus: Make sure you’re not falling for these ten super common mental health myths.


You’ll make healthier lifestyle choices

In nearly every measure of health, researchers have found that happily married or committed couples fare better. Part of it is due to all the above reasons but part of it may be due to the fact that people in long-term relationships seem to make healthier choices. Call it the good kind of peer pressure but married people are more likely to follow their doctor’s orders, adhere to treatment plans, and get follow-up care, according to a study published in the Journal of Family Psychology. Of course, this only works if you listen to your spouse when they tell you to take your meds or call the doctor about that rash. Need some inspiration for healthy choices? Try these 50 of the best healthy eating tips.

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen, MS, is an award-winning journalist, author, and ghostwriter who for nearly two decades has covered health, fitness, parenting, relationships, and other wellness and lifestyle topics for major outlets, including Reader’s Digest, O, The Oprah Magazine, Women’s Health, and many more. Charlotte has made appearances with television news outlets such as CBS, NBC, and FOX. She is a certified group fitness instructor in Denver, where she lives with her husband and their five children.