The assumption that if you get married, you will get healthier is so much a part of our conventional wisdom that it is rarely challenged. Back when I was just practicing single life and not studying it, I had no idea that the supposed truism was actually a myth. I figured that out fast, though, once I started going to the original research reports and scrutinizing them. I drew from what I had learned from decades of doing research and teaching graduate courses in research methods, but some of the mental errors in the claims about the research are so egregious that you should not need any formal training to realize how ridiculous they are.
My first comprehensive debunking of the claims about getting married and getting healthy were published in the second chapter of Singled Out. There I describe what is wrong with the research behind those claims, and take a close look at some examples of different kinds of research. Maybe because it was the first time I was spelling it all out, even for myself, that is still, after all these years, my favorite debunking of the myths about getting married.
I’ve kept it up ever since. Whenever a new study about getting married and supposedly getting healthier hits the news, I hit the books. I look up the original study, and see what it actually says. Below are my discussions and critiques, organized into three sections: I. Physical Health, II. Mental Health, and III. Also Relevant.
I. PHYSICAL HEALTH
Overall Physical Health
Get married, get healthy? Maybe not. (my op-ed in the New York Times)
Why we thought marriage made us healthier, and why we were wrong (NBC News, THINK)
Health benefits unlikely even from the longest marriages
What’s wrong with our cherished beliefs about marriage?
Why divorced people are key to understanding marriage
Everything you think you know about single people is wrong
Marriage: How we got it so wrong for so long
The case for marriage is a sham
Singles are ‘catching up’ in health, but who is really in the lead?
American marriages: Happiness and health decline over time
Women who stay single or get divorced are the healthiest
To your health! 4 ways singles have more to celebrate
Is good marriage good for your health?
Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?
Marriage and health: Eh tu, New York Times?
TIME magazine peddles pro-marriage ideology under the guise of science
Flat out false: Media reports of the health of married couples
Newsweek’s turn to post misleading account of latest marriage study
USA Today’s big new story on marriage peddles same old fallacies
Marriage and genes: Their claims, my qualms
Is it healthier to live with someone?
Serving up same old myths about marriage, with a side of condescension
Does marriage civilize men?
The health hazards of having been married
Weight, Exercise, Food
Latest claim: Getting married makes you fatter because you are having so much fun
Men, women, single, married: Who really exercises more?
Snacking on single people — such yummy stereotypes!
Blood Pressure, Stroke, Heart Health
Single men have good hearts
Get married, get heart disease: Study of 3.5 million adults
Avoid stroke by marrying? A case study in misrepresentation of marriage findings
Are singles doomed to high blood pressure? Only if they read media reports of the latest study
What you know about marriage that the New York Times does not
Are ambivalent marriages good for your health?
If you get married, will you sleep better?
Is sharing a bed good for your health? Part 1
Bed-sharing and health, Part 2: Questions you should ask
Sharing a bed, Part 3: How do couples differ on nights when they sleep together vs. apart
Bed-sharing, Part 4: Is marital happiness a magical sleep potion?
Here are the details of that delirious Alzheimer’s study
Is marriage a special kind of social support?
Will marriage save you from dying of cancer?
What does marriage have to do with surviving cancer? Part 1
Part 2: What does marriage have to do with surviving cancer?
The skeptical reader: How the media, and even academic journals, get things wrong
They survived cancer, only to get bashed by singlism
Partners in substance abuse: It is the single women who stop using
II. MENTAL HEALTH
Overall Mental Health
Singles and mental health (chapter by Bella DePaulo)
No partner, no worries: New study of psychological health (loneliness, depression, and stress)
The fragile spouse and the resilient single person
Wounded warriors: The single ones are the most resilient
Times reporter thinks single women fear intimacy; I’m afraid he’s wrong
Latest study: Single people do not have attachment problems (Part I)
No attachment issues among single people (Part II): How to make even good findings sound bad
Being coupled ain’t all it’s cracked up to be
Will you be less depressed if you get married? 2 studies
Really? Marriage reduces depression?
If you marry, will you be less depressed? Part 1
Part 2: If you marry, will you be less depressed?
Study: Got married younger than you had hoped? That’s depressing
Is marriage toxic to women? No, misleading reporting is
Shame on you, APA!
What matters is whether you matter to others
Demanding, critical partners and family members increase risk of depression a decade later
Suicide: Is it less about mental health than integration into society?
Are married people less likely to kill themselves?
Psychopaths, Antisocial Behavior
Actual newspaper headline: ‘Married men better men’
Naughty or nice? Single men and married men
III. ALSO RELEVANT
Cracking the code: How to think critically about the alleged superiority of married people
The myth that getting married makes you healthier: Why the investment in it?
In a sudden medical emergency, will a spouse save your life?
The crisis in squishy science and trouble for journalists
Who are you going to believe – the National Marriage Project or your plants?
David Brooks + Sandra Bullock = Matrimania
The topic that turns smart, creative people into mindless spouters of clichés: Part 1
A rant about a rant about marriage: Part 2
The unique challenges of being single and chronically ill: Guest post by Nika Beamon
Feeling misunderstood can increase physical pain
On tax breaks, emotional commitments, and the myth of the transformative power of marriage
Marriage wars: The real fight is over moral superiority
The publication of ‘The Case for Marriage’ kicked up an ideological storm
Men and women who have always been single are doing fine
Marriage vs. Single Life: How Science and the Media Got It So Wrong