Is Cohabitation As Beneficial As Marriage?

couple holding hands while walking outsideThe benefits of marriage, especially for men, have been documented in myriad studies. Scientists from the Framingham Offspring Study found a 46% lower death rate among married men than their single counterparts. Other studies have shown that married men also have a lower risk of depression and other mental health issues, a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s, and a better chance of survival when cancer is diagnosed than unmarried men.

For cohabiting couples in long-term relationships, these benefits might be motivation to tie the knot. However, a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health suggests cohabiting couples may benefit as much as married couples.

Cohabitation: Good for Your Health?

Researchers used data from the British National Child Development Study. This longitudinal cohort study followed all people born in Britain during one week in March 1958. Researchers assessed the health of 10,000 participants by measuring blood inflammatory markers and respiratory capacity. The team controlled for factors that might affect health outcomes, including health history, previous education, income, and socioeconomic status.

Men who had never cohabited or married had worse overall health than other men in the study. This effect was less pronounced in women—whose marital status did not significantly impact their health—but women who married in their late 20s or early 30s did have better overall health than other women, including those who married younger and those who never married or lived with a partner.

Researchers did not find a connection between relationship transitions and health. People who divorced and then cohabited or remarried had similar health outcomes to those who remained married. Men who divorced in their late 30s and did not remarry even experienced a reduction in the risk of metabolic syndromes. Because the study looked at long-term outcomes, however, the researchers caution that their data might not capture the health effects of acute stress usually associated with divorce.

Are Marriage and Cohabitation Good for Everyone?

Though these figures might seem like valid reason to stick with a long-term relationship, the researchers are circumspect about the data. They point out that beliefs about marriage and long-term partnership are always changing, particularly among younger generations. The results of this study might only be relevant to members of the same generation as the cohort study.

References:

  1. Marriage and men’s health. (2010, July 1). Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/marriage-and-mens-health
  2. Saxena, R. (2015, August 10). Good news for unmarried couples—cohabitation is good for you. Retrieved from http://arstechnica.com/science/2015/08/unmarried-couples-get-health-benefits-too

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  • janie

    janie

    August 11th, 2015 at 2:01 PM

    My husband has always said that by marrying me he saved his life and in many aspects I think that that is very true. He was drug user and an alcoholic and really had not much direction in life when we met. Why I thought that this was the man I needed to hitch my wagon to and save I don’t know but there was just something about him that for me clicked. We got together and he has never looked back and neither have I. he kicked those habits, has always provided for us and I would even bet that had we not met and gotten together he may not be here today.

  • Danaria

    Danaria

    August 12th, 2015 at 4:21 PM

    But i thought that the old stories used to be that more people who lived together before getting married got divorced than those who did not?

    Was that for reaL? Or just my parents trying to keep me a good girl?

  • rick

    rick

    August 13th, 2015 at 4:20 PM

    My guess is that no matter what type of living situation you choose for you and your partner if you are in a healthy relationship then this is going to show in all aspects of your life. You are going to feel and look better both mentally and physically, and you are going to want to take care of yourself because you are invested in being around for someone else.

  • Emily

    Emily

    August 14th, 2015 at 9:54 AM

    My boyfriend would simply take this as even more evidence that he does not need to propose

  • Katie

    Katie

    August 15th, 2015 at 4:09 PM

    Marriage always benefits men, not women. In fact, marriage is detrimental in several aspects to a woman: financial, health, career, educational…. Keep your name, Keep your money: you’ll live longer and be happier.

  • skylar

    skylar

    August 16th, 2015 at 1:13 PM

    @Katie- but you will be lonely
    you can get married without giving up those aspects of independence

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