People who are happily married don't fall sick often and enjoy good health, finds research.
In a 20-year longitudinal study tracking health and marriage quality, Brigham Young University family life researcher Rick Miller found that as the quality of marriage holds up over the years, physical health holds up too.
He said that there is proof from previous research that marital conflict leads to poor health and his study showed that happy marriages have a preventative component that keeps people in good health over the years.
The study shows positive marriage relationships sustain health over the long run.
The study used data from a nationally representative sample of 1,681 married individuals followed over the course of two decades - the longest study on marital quality and health to date.
Miller and colleagues measured marital quality in two ways: First, in terms of happiness and satisfaction, and, second, in terms of marital problems (Do you argue about money? Do you fight about in-laws?). Respondents then rated their health on a 1 (excellent) to 4 (poor) scale.
The results showed those with higher marital conflict were more likely to report poor health.
Miller said that the implication is that marital conflict is a risk factor for poor health and couples that fight or argue frequently should get professional help to reduce their conflict, as it affects their health.
Miller added that when spouses have a bad day, in a happy marriage, they are more likely to support each other and empathize with each other and that support reduces stress and helps buffer against a decline in health.
The study has been published in the Journal of Marriage and Family.