Women gain no health benefits from marriage, new research claims.
In a joint project, researchers from the London School of Economics, University College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine analysed data relating to 10,000 people born in the UK during the same week in 1958.
Marriage was thought to benefit people because of a myriad of physical and psychological reasons. It was thought that wives encouraged married men to keep physically fit, eat properly and visit their doctor.
Women, in contrast, were thought to benefit emotionally because they value being in a relationship.
Yet the new study suggests that women hardly benefit from tying the knot.
The research also found that single women do not suffer the same negative health effects as unmarried men.
In fact, middle aged women who had never married had virtually the same chance of developing metabolic syndrome – a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity – as married women.
“Not marrying or cohabiting is less detrimental among women than men,” said Dr George Ploubidis, a population health scientist at the UCL Institute of Education.
“Numerous studies have found that married people have better health than unmarried people. However, our research shows that people who experience separation, divorce and remarriage, have very similar levels of health in middle age to those who are married.
“Previous research has also shown that men experience an initial decline after divorce, but we found that in the long term they tend to revert back to their pre-divorce health status.
“Surprisingly, those men who divorced in their late 30s and did not subsequently remarry, were less likely to suffer from conditions related to diabetes in early middle age compared to those who were married.”
In 2014, there were more than 3 million cohabiting partnerships, and 12.5 million married couples in the UK. According to research by the Office for National Statistics, there were 118,000 divorces in England and Wales in 2012.
The research was published in The American Journal of Public Health.