Marriage is right back in fashion, but is it good for men?
If marriage is making a comeback (after years in decline, statistics show more people are getting hitched) the obvious question is why? Analysts reckon a tough economic climate has made both men and women yearn for the stability and support that marriage offers.
"During tough economic times, people seek stability and family may be valued more highly than material goods. As parents could be out of work, they may have more time to spend on child rearing," said a spokesperson for the Office of National Statistics.
But there's more to it than that. Another piece of research released earlier this month found that married people are happier than cohabiters and a lot happier than the single, separated and divorced.
With that in mind, you may be tempted to pop the question yourself. If so, here's what marriage can do for your well-being, health and longevity. In a nutshell, here's what's in it for men.
Lots of research suggests that marriage is good for men's health. In one recent study, for example, scientists evaluated nearly 4,000 people over a period of 10 years and found that married men had a 46% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease than unmarried men.
There's much less evidence that marriage protects men from cancer, but plenty to suggest that married men with the disease fare better than unmarried men in the same circumstances. One recent study found that when married people are diagnosed with the disease, it tends to be at an earlier stage and easier to treat.
The fact is, married men get pestered to go to the doctor by their wives when something is wrong, while unmarried men are more likely to wait and see if the symptoms go away on their own.
But it's not just about being nagged all the way to the GP. Research from the University of Miami found that married men undergoing treatment for prostate cancer a uniquely male disease lived longer, on average, than either cohabiting men or single men.
Meanwhile, being married also cuts your risk of dementia, according to Swedish researchers. They found that middle-aged people who live alone have double the risk of dementia compared with those who are married.
It's wrong to say that two people can live as cheaply as one, but there are certainly significant savings to be made by being married. You pay one rent instead of two, have two wages bolstering the household income (most of the time), and can share the cost of everything from furniture and gadgets to cars and insurance. Oh, and cooking for two is cheaper than cooking for one.
That's true of cohabiters too, of course, but experts reckon the sense of permanence that comes with marriage encourages people to invest in things together.
And according to Linda J Waite and Maggie Gallagher, authors of The Case for Marriage, there are some specific benefits for men and their money, especially when it comes to work. Married men miss work less often and are more likely to arrive on time. They're more conscientious, in other words, and studies have shown that they reap the rewards.
A study by researchers in the Department of Economics at New York University found that married men earned an average of 12.4% more an hour than unmarried men.
One possible reason for that, the researchers argue, is that the support and encouragement of a wife makes men feel better about going to work each day. A partner motivates you and makes you more productive.
Other research has shown that married men are also more likely to be promoted and receive higher performance appraisals at work.
The notion that married people have dull, routine and worst of all infrequent sex has been turned on its head by more recent research. Waite and Gallagher quote statistics showing that about 40% of married people have sex twice a week, compared with 20-25% of single and cohabitating men and women. Around half of married men say they are physically content, compared with 38% of cohabiting men.
Studies have also shown that married men are less likely to commit crimes and less likely to end up in prison. One study, published in the journal Criminology and Criminal Justice, found that married men exhibit more self-control, and are less likely to put themselves in situations or company that lead to criminal behaviour.
"Those increases in self-control, in part, explain why people are less likely to be involved in crime when they are married than when they are single," said Dr Walter Forrest, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Monash University in Australia.
And research on twins found that marriage makes men less anti-social. It found that less anti-social men were more likely to marry, but that their low rates of anti-social behaviour declined further when they were married. Married men are mellower men, with all the health and happiness benefits that serenity brings.
A word of warning
After all that, you might be tempted to run out and propose to the first woman who catches your eye. Before you do, a word of warning. Other research suggests that there's a very important proviso to all this.
It does seem that marriage can make men happier and healthier, if (and it's a big IF) it's a good marriage. But according to Tara Parker-Pope, author of For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage, a bad marriage can be as harmful to your heart as a regular smoking habit.
It can also be worse for you than work stress. Why? Well, because at least you can escape the stresses of work for a couple of days a week. Marriage is always with you, and for the long term. You even take it on holiday.
In other words, marriage can be great for men, if you're with the right partner. So however fashionable wedlock is right now, don't go rushing into anything you're not 100% ready for.
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