A new study has found that those who marry are generally healthier as they get older, when compared to those who are unmarried or divorced.
Conducted by University College London, the study aimed to determine whether married people had better health prospects when beginning to enter old age. It tested people over the age of 60 in the UK and U.S. and recorded their grip strength and walking speed: two factors thought to indicate the health and physical capabilities of an older person. Slower walking speeds and inability to do things like grip and open jars in people entering old age can potentially suggest difficulty in their future.
The results of the study showed that those who were married were on the whole better off physical health-wise than those who were not married.
In terms of walking speeds, unmarried men walked 11cm slower than married men, and unmarried women 8cm slower than married women. Unmarried men and women on average had a two per cent weaker grip than their married counterparts, also.
Divorcees fared poorly too, with divorced women having a weaker grip than those who were married, and divorced men slower than married men.
So how is this explained? Study leader Dr Natasha Wood, from UCL’s Institute of Education, puts it down to a wealthier, healthier lifestyle, which in general tends to promote happiness:
‘We do not know if people who are healthier tend to get married or if it is the other way around and something about being married promotes good health.’
‘But the importance of wealth in explaining much of the poorer physical capability among older unmarried people suggests that protecting and improving the financial circumstances of unmarried people may help to ensure they’re on a level playing field with married people in terms of physical capability and independent living in later life.’