If you and your sweetie vow “until death do us part,” you may, in fact, be hedging your bets. A recent study by researchers at Duke University suggests that married couples live longer and adapt better to illness or disease than single folks. This study focused on the effects of not having a spouse, or permanent partner, during midlife. The researchers found that people who had been in a stable marriage throughout their adult life had a greatly reduced risk of premature death.
The heart of the matter might well be the heart. Earlier research has shown that men who were never married were three times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than married men. Researchers think this is due, in part, to the care men in relationships get from their partner – from eating better, to getting more exercise, to seeing the doctor more often, to having more robust social connections – which can all lead to better health. It’s not surprising that both men and women who are in a supportive relationship who do develop heart disease have better survival outcomes than their single counterparts.
The link between a good marriage and a healthy heart seems logical when you look at factors such as improved diet, better healthcare, and reduced stress, depression, and isolation. The reasons a loving relationship can protect you from the effects other illness and disease, such as cancer, are also becoming clearer. So far, even though it does not appear that marriage reduces your chance of getting cancer, for those who do get cancer, a loving partnership can improve your chance of survival for a number of reasons. Because a spouse is more likely to encourage a partner to go to the doctor, married individuals are more likely to seek care earlier and are less likely to have advanced disease at the time of diagnosis than unmarried people. In the same vein, married patients are more likely to receive treatment than unmarried patients. And among people who do receive cancer therapy, marriage is linked to increased survival.
It’s not simply a marriage license that confers health benefits. A loving, supportive, and respectful partnership is at the bottom of living a long, happy life with your sweetheart. Clearly, a toxic relationship will wreak toxic havoc on your health, so if you’re happily single, you’re better off staying that way than rushing headlong into a poisonous pairing. If you are married, but it’s more war than roses, you owe it to yourself and your health to take steps towards healing and balance.
In his book Free to Love, Free to Heal, Chopra Center co-founder Dr. David Simon described seven universal laws for creating enlightened, loving relationships. Here is a summary of the seven laws, which you can read about in more detail in a previous Chopra Center blog post.
Are you ready to open your heart to new love or reinvigorate the partnership you are in? Click here for information on Chopra Center programs that heal the heart and inspire your spirit as you learn to make deeper and more profound connections with the ones you love.