The Economics of Marriage and Health - Til Death Do Us Part

By Fred Lee on 20 April 2009 4 comments

A recent study has found that marital strife can be detrimental to your heart, more so for women than in men. And heart disease, as you may or may not know, is the number one killer of both sexes.

Everyone who is married knows well enough that besides the tax advantage, for things to work, it takes a lot of effort. Factor in children and the challenges become even greater (for the record, so do the rewards). While many of us might be familiar with how the stress and strain of a bad marriage can profoundly affect our emotional state, it turns out that there are a number of physical consequences, as well.

In fact, marital strife was found to increase the incidence of depression, particularly in women, as well as certain key indicators for heart disease and diabetes. The reason for the higher risk in women is believed to be directly linked to elevated levels of stress hormones that can result from domestic instability, of which men were found to be less affected.

When you really think about it, it makes sense. Studies have shown that depression and anger can negatively impact our health, and since our emotional state can be influenced by our interactions with the people around us, it goes without saying that it is beneficial to nurture healthy relationships with our colleagues, friends, family, and, of course, our spouse.

And, in addition to the health connection, there are some important economic consequences to consider, as well. Medical expense ranks second only to credit card debt as a reason to file for personal bankruptcy in this country, and the enormous costs could very well contribute to your emotional, and thus physical, decline.

Then there is the issue of divorce, which can not only exact a huge emotional toll, but it can be expensive and can ruin a person financially. In fact, it is not unheard of for people to suck it up and stay married for monetary reasons alone. Whether or not this is a good thing is subject to interpretation..

With all of this in mind, maybe it’s not a bad idea to make the time and effort to maintain a healthy relationship with our significant other, because our families, and by extension, our health, are more important than we are often willing to acknowledge.

And while I don’t profess to be an expert on relationships (if I were, I’d have my own talk show), there are few things that I’ve found help to keep things running on the home front, and maybe they might work for you:

1. Communicate. Let your spouse know if there’s a problem or something is wrong, because keeping it to yourself will never address the problem and could very well lead to simmering resentment. On the flip side, tell them when they do something you like, so they’ll know to do it again.

2. Share in a life. This is especially true with kids. Try to embrace shared interests rather than solely indulging in individual ones. While each person’s needs are important, at some point couples begin to lead completely disparate lives. Sharing in life experiences can create bonds (an memories) that will last a lifetime.

3. Eat meals together. As a couple or with your kids, make time to eat as a family. Life is hectic, but it’s important to sit down to at least one meal (the more the better) together and eat as a family. And whatever you do, enjoy it.

4. Celebrate the little things. Taking notice of the effort your spouse makes, no matter how small, will always be welcomed. Compliments are always appreciated, and don’t avoid telling them that you love them. These are easy things that take little effort and crop up constantly throughout the day.

5. Make compromises and sacrifices, especially when they are not too painful. Even though they may seem trivial, missing a football game on TV or forsaking girl’s night out to be together will make a statement to your spouse on how you value your time together.

6. Say you’re sorry. Acknowledge when you’re wrong, even if it’s not completely your fault. Shelving your pride will allow you to meet your spouse on a middle ground where a healthier interaction can take place.

While each couple does things differently, there are certain universal qualities that make relationships strong, so take the time to let your spouse know that you are there for them, and that you want them there for you.

A healthy family life will bring positive consequences to all other areas in your life. And you never know, it might even save you some money.

If you have any more thoughts on domestic bliss, please share them with our Wisebread readers. It’s a rough world out there, and good advice is always welcome.

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Guest's picture

Good post! I do have one bone to pick with you, though... When you say "Eat meals together. Again, this is especially true for families," I assume you mean that this is especially true for couples with children, as you said in the previous step. The implication, then, is that married couples without children are NOT families. This is a common implication, but still erroneous and hurtful. I'd be appreciative if you'd change the wording to reflect this. Thanks.

Fred Lee's picture

Please excuse my oversight. It just came out wrong, and I changed it. Thanks for stopping by and for pointing it out. And have a nice day.

Guest's picture

Solid advice-- communication and partnership are keys to success!

Guest's picture

There's nothing that seems to work better than humbling yourself a bit and apologizing, even if you honestly didn't think you did anything wrong. The guns soon get lowered as a result, and the problems will get worked out.

This coming from a year's worth of marriage experience... :)