Marriage May Literally Be Good For The Heart (Pardon the Pun)

Marriage as an institution has come increasingly into question these days, with divorce on the rise and family structures shifting fast. But before you decide to forgo those nuptials altogether, consider this: A recent study found marriage can improve cardiovascular health. According to the NYU Langone Medical Center's findings, which came after a research team analyzed 3.5 million men and women of all ages and genetic backgrounds across the country:

The research team found that overall, individuals who were married had a 5% lower risk of developing any kind of cardiovascular disease than those who were single... married people under the age of 50 had a 12% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, compared with single people younger than 50 years. Married couples between the ages of 51 and 60 had a 7% lower risk of cardiovascular disease, compared with single individuals of the same age group, while married couples over the age of 60 had a 4% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

That's right: depending on your age, marriage is associated with a 4 to 12 percent reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, as compared to being single. Those who are widowed or divorced, on the other hand, experience elevated levels of cardiovascular risk — 3 percent and 5 percent, respectively. Other recent research shows that, of women who suffer from heart disease, the married ones die from it significantly less frequently. Aww.

So, does that mean you should you run out and get married to protect your health? Well, although these studies attempted to control for other factors, cause and correlation remain difficult to distinguish. Some of the effect may be a result of healthy people marrying more frequently, but some of the effect is likely due to the genuine health benefits of having someone to comfort and support you, encourage you to go to the doctor, etc.

If you are married, make it a good marriage, though — conversely, ongoing stressful relationships take a dramatic toll on your health (comparable to that of a smoking habit!), as does divorce. Healthy marriage: it does a body good.