Married people are healthier than single people, right? It depends, according to a new Brigham Young University study, which tracked the health and marital quality of over 1600 married couples over 20 years. Happily married folks were healthier—while couples who fought more were not.
But the relationship between marital satisfaction and physical health is even more complicated than that. One recent study, for example, found that happier newlyweds were likelier to gain weight over their first four years. Those who had more thoughts of divorce lost weight, maybe with an eye to the dating market. Other research has found, reports Emily Butler, University of Arizona family studies professor, that “when both partners smoke, they feel more positive, which perpetuates their smoking,”
Yet partners can also powerfully influence each other in a healthy direction, says Thomas Bradbury, Ph.D., a clinical psychology professor at UCLA and co-author of Love Me Slender. They’re uniquely positioned to create an environment and lifestyle that promotes healthier decisions, he says. And they can remind each other of their wish to live long healthy lives together.
Recently, London McBride, 37, a UCLA policeman and former semi-pro athlete, got back into shape with the help of his wife Summer, 35, a full-time mother of four. “As a football player, you’re just team property. Get injured and they can throw you away,” he says. “When Summer pushed me, it was because she wanted me to be with her forever.”