Marriage is good for health

Carnegie Mellon researchers found that married people are healthier than their single, divorced, or widowed counterparts. The study, published in Pyschoneuroendocrinolgy, showed that married people have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than people who were never married. This is the first biological study to confirm the claim that has long been circulated.

Over three non-consecutive days, researchers collected saliva samples from 572 healthy adults between the age of 21 and 55. The samples were then tested for cortisol. Researchers also compared daily cortisol rhythm, which peak sharply after waking up and gradually fall during the day; married participants displayed a faster decline than their unmarried counterparts. Faster declines are associated with reduced heart disease and increased cancer survival.

"It is exciting to discover a physiological pathway that may explain how relationships influence health and disease," said Brian Chin, a Ph.D. student in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, in a Carnegie Mellon press release. Sheldon Cohon, a professor of psychology at Robert E. Doherty University, added "These data provide important insight into the way in which our intimate social relationships can get under the skin to influence our health."

These results demonstrate how social constructs can affect our biology. However, the study does not fully conclude that marriage leads to increase health. After all, the researchers' sample population was strictly comprised of healthy individuals.

The publication of the research was funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Chin conducted the research along with Michael Murphy, a Carnegie Mellon post-doctoral researcher, and Denise Janicki-Deverts of the University of Pittsburgh.