Until the 1980s, most states required people to get a blood test in order to get a marriage license. The test, which screened for certain illnesses, like syphilis and rubella, was put in place to cut down on the spread of communicable diseases and prevent birth defects. By 2006, however, the blood test requirement was phased out everywhere U.S. except Washington D.C. and Mississippi.
Three researchers (Kasey Buckles of Notre Dame, Melanie Guldi of Mount Holyoke, and Joseph Price of Brigham Young) recently decided to find out if the elimination of the blood test had any relationship to the number of couples who applied for marriage licenses each year. Studying data on state marriage rates between 1980 and 2006, they found that, when blood tests were required, 5.7% fewer licenses were issued. Marriage And Health: Damned If You Do And Don't
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Buckles believes the study's results are not a mere case of correlating numbers. In her opinion, many people chose not to get married specifically because of the test. As she sees it, the burden of discovering a positive test result for a certain disease or even the fear of the sight of blood kept people away from the licensing office.Would You Date Someone With An Incurable STD?
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Whether other factors were also allowed for in the study (like the state of the economy, the changing social climate, advanced education levels, etc.), we don't know. But it does make sense that when people are required to take a blood test that might reveal something awful, they often choose not to take the blood test.
We can't help but wonder: If blood tests were suddenly required of soon-to-be-married couples again, would marriage rates drop back down? Are there certain things that should be tested for before tying the knot? And when blood tests are in place, do they actually succeed in cutting down on the spread of disease and occurrence of birth defects?