True confession time: Before we (the authors of this article) got engaged, Charlotte already had a specific date and time reserved for the church where our wedding would be held.1 Although no ultimatum was ever given, it was pretty clear to Patrick that after living together for several years, it was time for him to think about marriage. Needless to say, the ring was bought, the wedding occurred on the given date at the nonnegotiable location, and we have been living happily ever after. Our story is hardly unique. Common wisdom suggests that young women can’t wait to walk down the aisle whereas young men grudgingly make the trek to the altar. Women may start planning their weddings long before their partners have a ring picked out, but perhaps women need to think more carefully about what they are getting into.
Men benefit more from marriage than women do – at least as far as their health is concerned.2,3 Although marriage appears to benefit both men and women’s health in some ways, some of our research suggests that women spend more time taking care of their husbands than men spend taking care of their wives.4 Perhaps this is why single men have a 250% greater mortality rate (i.e., more likely to die) than do married men (compared with single women who have 50% greater mortality rate relative to married women).5
Why might men benefit more from marriage? Corinne Reczek and colleagues have found that married men drink less (i.e., consume less alcohol) than their single peers.6 In contrast, women seem to drink more following marriage. This research team speculates that women might monitor or limit their husbands’ alcohol consumption. However, marriage leads women to drink more than when they were single.
So for men, saying “I do” to marriage means saying “I do” to moderating alcohol consumption and living a healthier lifestyle. The same cannot necessarily be said of women. Of course, it is unlikely that knowledge of marriage’s health benefits would lead young men to race down the aisle in greater numbers. Leaving a life of partying for marriage – even if it is a healthier life – may not be a priority for many men. But, maybe, women would buy fewer bridal magazines if they knew that the “happily ever after” fairy tale they’ve been sold applies more to men than women.
As for us, we are happy to report that more than a decade of marriage later we drink very moderately. Admittedly, though, sometimes Charlotte has to tell Patrick when he has had one too many.
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1Charlotte would like it noted that the reason the wedding date was planned nearly two years in the future was due to the advance notice needed to wed at the desired locale and not due to overexposure to bridal magazines.
2Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K. & Newton, T. L. (2001). Marriage and health: His and hers. Psychological Bulletin, 127, 472-503.
3Markey, C. N., Markey, P. M., & Gray, H. F. (2007). Romantic relationships and health: An examination of individuals' perceptions of their romantic partners' influences on their health. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, 57, 435-445.
4Markey, C. N., Markey, P. M., Schneider, C., & Brownlee, S. (2005). Marital status and health beliefs: Different relations for men and women. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, 53, 443-451.
5Ross, C. E., Mirowsky, J., & Goldsteen, K. (1990). The impact of the family on health: The decade in review. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 52, 1059-1078.
6Reczek, C., Pudrovska, T., Carr, D., Umberson, D. (2012). Alcohol, Marital Status, and Marital Transitions: Quantitative and Qualitative Evidence. Presented at the American Sociological Association (ASA) Meeting, Medical Sociology Session Panel on Social Networks, Social Support, and Health Across the Life Span. Denver, Colorado.
Dr. Charlotte Markey - Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Markey's research addresses issues central to both developmental and health psychology. A primary focus of her research is social influences on eating-related behaviors (i.e., eating, dieting, body image) in both parent-child and romantic relationships.
Dr. Patrick Markey - Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Markey's research focuses on how behavioral tendencies develop and are expressed within social relationships, including unhealthy dieting, civic behavior, personality judgment, and interpersonal aggression after playing violent video games.