By Dr. Wendy Walsh
You might think that life expectancy is in your genetic code, but research says you have far more control than you think. In his best selling book, Blue Zones, National Geographic researcher, Dan Buettner, looks at five areas on the planet where an astounding number of people live to be over the age of 100, and then he looks for lifestyle commonalities. While you might think the read is a diet and exercise book, it includes good news about the life extending benefits of healthy relationships. Nearly all the centenarians in Buettner’s work have solid life-long partners and active sex lives.
A study by researchers from Michigan State University and the University of Cincinnati supported the idea that married and cohabiting individuals live longer. The odds of a married individual living longer than a never married individual are 60 percent. The odds of mortality for married people are 40 percent higher than widows, and 30 percent higher than divorced or separated persons. In addition, married individuals have a lower mortality rate than cohabiting individuals.
And, married people experience fewer health problems and are less likely to take part in risky health behaviors like smoking, excessive drinking and unhealthy eating. The National Health Interview Survey showed that in the young age range of 19-44 the leading causes of early death among those who never married were infectious diseases (researchers presume HIV) and external causes. Cardiovascular and other chronic diseases plague middle aged and older unmarried men and women. In contrast, married individuals have greater heart health, and attain shared employer benefits, which means great health, eye and dental care. Marriage is also one of the greatest protectors against poverty, one of the least healthy situations a person in the United States could be in.
Many married couples will complain about how their partners are “slowly killing them” or “giving them more grey hairs”, in some marriages this may be true, but, contrary to popular belief, most spouses are not soul suckers; they are more of a life giving force. Those who marry are more likely to be socially active, rather than withdrawn or introverted. Social interaction is necessary for human beings to build relationships, relieve stress and live happier, healthier lives. The ultimate committed relationship, marriage, just lends an extra helping hand to extend that lifeline into a blissful future.
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