In a study presented at the annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America, University of Michigan researcher Shannon Mejia and her team looked at health indicators from 1,568 married couples across the United States. The couples were separated into two groups: those who had been married for about 20 years, and those who had been married for about 50 years. Overall, Mejia found that the couples had striking similarities in kidney function, total cholesterol, and grip strength.
Mejia and her fellow researchers found that there was similarity in the biomarkers beyond the race, education, and age factors that they statistically accounted for. The strongest example was in total cholesterol: The math says that 20 percent of the outcome for total cholesterol is attributable to couple membership.
The similarity between members of couples goes against what Mejia calls the “independence assumption” in the United States: Your health is thought to be individualistic. After all, it’s yourbody that the doctor investigates, not your partner’s. But as Mejia’s work indicates, environments matter.
Because of the nature of the data she’s working with — a large-scale longitudinal study — Mejia can’t really isolate the mechanisms of couple health concordance. She points to the work of University of British Columbia psychologist Christiane Hoppmann, who takes a more granular approach. Hoppmann zooms in on the mechanics of coupledom, finding, for instance, that members of couples who share greater intimacy have lower levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress. READ MORE
When scripture tells us that, “the two shall become one” we often think of that in philosophical and spiritual terms. Most people don’t take that verse literally, but the research consistently says we should. In addition to the above research, other studies have found that the body responds to break-ups and divorce in the same way it responds to physical injury. Divorce, in particular, has potentially very serious long term health consequences.
To learn more about having the kind of marriage that promotes health and well-being across every dimension of your life, check out For Better…FOREVER! A Catholic Guide to Lifelong Marriage–2nd Edition Revised and Expanded.