We all know the traditional marital vows, “I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.”
Ideally, we hope to grow old with our significant other, and perhaps it is a quixotic thought to think they’ll never become ill or suffer a prolonged and difficult malady within their lifetime.
Caring for another chronically ill person can be a stressful, expensive, emotionally and physically exhaustive undertaking. Just ask those who have taken care of their elderly or infirmed parents at any time in their life.
In fairy-tales we only see the lovely couple ride off together following their romantic nuptials into their happily ever after. We never see Cinderella having to attend to her sick prince somewhere down the line. Nor do we see them bickering over his time consuming obsession with computer games or her expensive shoe fetish.
Therefore, it is no surprise that Brigham Young University researchers have found happier marriages are those lived less in sickness and more in health.
More specifically, healthier relationships – those with effective problem solving, invested quality time, and constructive mutual communication – equate to healthier partners, as conflict can take a toll on well-being – creating a slippery slope towards stress-related illnesses.
The study – led by BYU family life researcher Rick Miller – used a 20-year longitudinal model, tracking health and marriage quality.
Miller and his colleagues found that as the quality of marriage holds up over the years, physical health holds up too. According to Miller, “There’s evidence from previous research that marital conflict leads to poor health. But this study also shows happy marriages have a preventative component that keeps you in good health over the years.”
A nationally representative sample of 1,681 married individuals followed over the course of two decades was used as the data source. Researchers measured marital quality in two ways: one, in happiness and satisfaction and two, in terms of marital problems (arguing over money or about in-laws).
Respondents rated their health on a one (excellent) to four (poor) scale. The results showed those with higher marital conflict were more likely to report poor health.
The implication of marital/relationship conflict as a factor on health should encourage couples to find more productive ways to resolve grievances.
The study, considered the longest study on marital quality and health to date, was published in the Journal of Marriage and Family.
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