Why Staying In A Bad Marriage Is Bad For Your Heart, According To Science

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A Good Marriage Can Help Your Heart's Health

And it's not just heartbreak you have to watch out for!

Most of us aspire to get married for long-term love and companionship. We are raised to believe that it is our national and societal duty to procreate to bring forth a new generation.

We are led to believe that the benefits of marriage include eternal happiness and that we will be better for it. Studies in the past have suggested that married people are healthier than those who are single, divorced or widowed. Is this still the case? Is marriage really good for your health?

These plagued relationships may leave the individuals involved feeling stressed, depressed, and feeling drained. So, what is better?

One study finds that a stressful, unhappy marriage can be as bad for the heart as a regular smoking habit. The researchers of this study suggest that stress can make people miserable and also affect their physical health.

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Stress may elevate the hormone called cortisol which may interfere with learning, cognition, and memory; lead to lower immune function and depression, increased weight gain; elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels and even make you prone to heart disease.

In a contrary study, researchers tested participants across the three days and found that married participants had lower cortisol levels than the never married or previously married people. The researchers also compared each individual's daily cortisol rhythm.

The findings support the theory that singles face more psychological stress than their married counterparts and were 10 percent to 15 percent less likely to die early. Increased levels of cortisol can also interfere with the body's processes and pathways of regulating inflammation, leading to the progression of many diseases.

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Another study suggests that individuals who suffer from heart disease and are married seem to do better than those who are unmarried. In this study, researchers monitored more than 6,000 individuals with heart disease for an average of 3.7 years.

The findings highlight that compared to married people, people who were divorced, separated, widowed, or never married, were 52 percent more likely to experience a heart attack. Singles also had a 45 percent higher risk of dying from heart disease.

This higher risk seems to stem from poor lifestyle choices that endangered their health. That is not to say that being married protects your health. But it does imply an increased element of social support and care. In other words, having a supportive spouse who provides companionship and encourages healthy lifestyle habits may improve your health.

Does that mean that if you are not married, you are destined to live a life of ill health and unhappiness? Not at all. Yes, the happiness of a marriage seems to be an important factor, but as has already been mentioned a stressful, unhappy marriage can also cause health issues.

So, what should you do? If you’re married and happy that’s great. If you’re single and happy that’s great too. Don’t compromise your health or happiness to stay in a bad marriage.

If you’re happy in your marriage, you will definitely benefit. But don’t stay in a bad marriage in order to test the "Marriage Advantage" — it will not apply to you. It is better to part ways and find your own path to happiness.

These studies are good indicators of how marriage affects health and explaining the multiple mechanisms that these social relationships bring.

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Paula Mooney is the author of several books (most written under pseudonyms to protect the guilty). Her essays and articles have been featured in national print magazines such as Writer's Digest, and in major online publications like Yahoo, Examiner, and more.

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