Being married, regardless of the relationship's quality, may help maintain healthy blood sugar levels, according to new research.
A wedding vow to be together "in sickness and in health" may have a new meaning, as a study published in the journal BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care suggests that marriage is associated with certain health benefits.
Researchers examined data from 3,335 adults aged 50–89 years without previously diagnosed diabetes from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing over a period from 2004 to 2013.
Data from the participants were collected every second year, with biomarker data collected in every other wave. Researchers gathered information on several factors, such as age, income, body mass index, level of physical activity, smoking, depression, and other social relationship types.
According to a study, being married was associated with lower values of the HbA1c test, which shows average blood sugar (glucose) levels from the past two or three months. High HbA1c values are a sign of high blood glucose from diabetes.
In wave 2 (2004 to 2005), 76% of the respondents were married or cohabiting. When participants experienced marital transitions, such as divorce, their HbA1c levels changed significantly.
The quality of the relationship — being strained or supportive — did not significantly affect HbA1c.
Researchers note that this is an observational study, and the cause cannot be established. Additionally, they do not rule out the possibility that people in worse health were more likely to get divorced.
Previous research suggests other marriage benefits on health. For example, a 2016 study from England discovered that married people were 14% less likely to die after a heart attack compared to single people. Researchers say this may be due to physical and emotional support from the spouse after the event.
Another study indicates that middle-aged women in marriages with high levels of satisfaction have health advantages over single women or those in less happy marriages. More specifically, women satisfied with their relationship are less likely to develop risk factors leading to cardiovascular diseases, such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and body mass index.
Happily married women also have lower levels of psychosocial cardiovascular risk factors — such as depression, anxiety, and anger.
- British Medical Journal. Being married may help people maintain lower blood sugar levels.
- BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care. How sweet is your love? Disentangling the role of marital status and quality on average glycemic levels among adults 50 years and older in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.
- EurekAlert. Marriage could improve heart attack survival and reduce hospital stay.
- American Psychological Association. Marriage Appears to Be Beneficial to Women’s Health, But Only When Marital Satisfaction Is High, New Research Shows.