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Married People Healthier Than Singles...Except for Weight

Marriage and health often go hand in hand, research shows.

Except for weight problems, married people are healthier than those who are divorced, widowed, never-married, or live with a partner, says the CDC.

The news comes from a new CDC report that looked at more than 127,000 adults between 1999 and 2002.

Here’s a quick glance at the country’s marital status during the study period:

—Nearly 60 percent of American adults were married.

—One in 10 were separated or divorced.

—One-fifth had never married.

—Less than 7 percent were widowed.

—About 6 percent had a live-in partner.

Married People Live Healthier

White adults were the most likely to be married, followed by Hispanics. Fewer black adults (38 percent) were married, says the CDC.

Across the board, married people were healthiest. “Married persons were healthier for nearly every measure of health,” says the CDC.

That was true for all ages, ethnicities, and levels of income and education. The connection between marriage and health was strongest in the youngest group, aged 18-44.

Married people were, in general, in better health than those who were divorced, widowed, never-married, or living with a partner. They were also less likely to suffer from health conditions like back pain, headaches, and serious psychological distress.

Married people were also less likely to smoke, drink heavily, and be physically inactive.

For instance, married men and women under age 44 were about half as likely to be current smokers.

Does Marriage Pack on the Pounds?

The healthy trend stopped when people hit the scales.

Married men were more likely to be overweight or obese. The problem was worst among middle-aged married men; three out of four men aged 45-64 were overweight or obese. The slimmest groups were men and women who had never married.

Living with someone wasn’t the same as being married. People with live-in partners didn’t match the health of married adults. Instead, they were more like divorced or separated people, in terms of health.

For the last century, studies have shown that married people are healthier. But that doesn’t mean that marriage improves health. It may be that healthier people get married and stay married, but no one knows for sure.

By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD

SOURCES: CDC, “Marital Status and Health: United States, 1999-2002.” News release, CDC.