Welcome back to our final wrap up of this discussion about marriage and mental health. Having talked about the impact that mental health has on divorce, and the impact that divorce has on mental health, we’re going to look at ways to maintain good mental health.
Many happily married couples will tell you that this information comes as no surprise – marriage is actually good for your mental health. Barring a marriage which is failing, and therefore a source of stress in and of itself, more and more mental health professionals are acknowledging the fact that a functioning and fulfilling marriage results in happier and healthy people.
Robin W. Simon, PhD, is a sociologist who has spent over two decades studying the correlation between social relationships, in particular marriage, and mental health. As Simon points out, hundreds of studies document a strong relationship between marriage and improved mental health. He also notes that married people report significantly fewer symptoms of depression and are significantly less likely to abuse substances than their unmarried counterparts.
But why is that? According to Simon, it’s because marriage provides social support, including emotional, financial, and instrumental support. In addition, he explains, married people have greater psychosocial, or coping, resources than the non-married. Examples of these, according to Simon, are higher self-esteem and greater mastery.
Dr. Simon’s most recent study, which tracked the health of married couples over a period of many years, found that people who got divorced, or were widowed during the study, experienced a significant decline in their mental health. This, he says, supports the theory of social causation, which claims that marriage helps to reduce instances of mental illness and also improve mental health. The reason, he says, is apparently the support system that is provided by having a spouse.
Divorce can sometimes be the cause of mental health issues, like depression and anxiety.
In addition, individuals who got married during the course of the study reported a significant reduction in symptoms of depression and alcohol abuse. “Social support and psychosocial resources not only increase emotional well-being but also buffer the negative emotional effects of stressors that people experience during the life course.” explained Dr. Simon.
So for those who who are hoping to get married in the future, and for those who are currently married and want to keep their marriages as successful as possible, this is just one more reason to invest in your relationship – your own mental health. “Sociological research on this topic is clear – having a deep emotional connection with another person provides individuals with social support and coping resources, a sense of purpose and meaning in life, an important social identity, and feelings of social integration and mattering – which are all important for both the development and maintenance of mental health.” Simon explains.
One must bear in mind, of course, that this data is full of nuances. One example would be the fact that a failing marriage causes severe stress, and therefore can adversely affect your health. Another factor is that individuals with mentally ill spouses do not benefit from the same emotional buffers as those with mentally healthy spouses. So while the results of this study would appear to favor marriage in every situation, that isn’t the case.
If every marriage were successful and fulfilling and wonderful, that would be great! However, this is real life, and that isn’t the case. So if you or a loved one are caught in an unhappy or unfulfilling relationship and can’t find a way to make it work, contact the experienced family law attorneys at The Kronzek Firm. We have spent decades helping people from all over Michigan through their divorces, and we can help you too.