Research shows that married people have better mental and physical health than their unmarried peers and are less likely to develop chronic conditions than their widowed or divorced counterparts. A University of Missouri expert says that people who have happy marriages are more likely to rate their health as better as they age; aging adults whose physical health is declining could especially benefit from improving their marriages.
Christine Proulx, an assistant professor in the MU Department of Human Development and Family Studies, examined the long-term relationship between self-rated health and marital quality. She found that, in all stages of marriage, positive or negative relationships affect the individuals' health. Spouses should be aware that how they treat each other and how happy they are in their marriages affect both partners' health, and they should think more about their personal relationships when thinking holistically about their health, she said.
"We often think about the aging process as something we can treat medically with a pill or more exercise, but working on your marriage also might benefit your health as you age," Proulx said. "Engaging with your spouse is not going to cure cancer, but building stronger relationships can improve both people's spirits and well-being and lower their stress."
Proulx suggests that health professionals consider patients' personal relationships when designing health promotion programs or treatment plans.