Happy Valentine’s Day!  Whether you love or hate this romantic holiday, or simply use it as an excuse to eat a whole box of chocolates in one sitting, I hope you have some fabulous plans for this evening.  I will be working in the ER tonight, but don’t worry, I pre-celebrated.  Although the sugary treats most of us consume today may lead us down the path to a diabetic coma, it turns out there are some health benefits to love.

I have been married two years now and thanks to my wonderful husband am enjoying life more than ever.  Researchers have deconstructed and studied these (usually) positive feelings and benefits of marriage.  What health benefits to marriage has science uncovered?

Married Men and Women are More Likely to Live Longer

Several studies across multiple cultures indicate that married people live longer than their single and divorced counterparts.  UCLA professor Robert Combs finds that “Virtually every study of mortality and marital status shows the unmarried of both sexes have higher death rates whether by accident, disease, or self-inflicted wounds”.  Married individuals are less likely to have surgery, develop cancer or suffer from heart attacks than non-married individuals.  Researchers are not sure why this connection exists, but stats show marriage increases longevity.

Marriage Improves Physical Health

Married individuals are less likely to suffer from both chronic disease and acute illnesses than non-married individuals.  Why?  Married people look out for each other.  They are likely to encourage their mate not to smoke or consume excessive amounts of alcohol.  Spouses are impacted by one another’s health choices therefore they are more likely to adhere to healthy diets.  Research has even shown that marriage may boost the immune system providing protective effects from illness. 

Marriage Promotes Mental Health and Happiness

Married people show decreased rates of mental illness.  They have lower rates of depression and less than half the incidence of other mental illnesses compared to their single and divorced counterparts.  Married people are also happier.  In one research study, the happiness experienced by married individuals was comparable to receiving a $100,000 annual pay raise.

Single?  Don’t be discouraged.  Studies show it is better to be single than to end up in an unhappy marriage.  People who have been divorced or widowed tend to experience more health problems than those who have been single their entire lives. 

Whether you are single or married or somewhere in-between I hope you have a Happy Valentine’s Day.  Perhaps today all of us should adhere to the ultimate health advice- chocolate and red wine is good for the heart

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