Sweet Love: Marital Status and Health

Aging isn’t for sissies, and aging alone take even more proactive planing to successfully tackle.  Some of the lifestyle factors that influence health and longevity include a healthy diet, physical activity, and regular social interaction – something that single older adults may struggle to achieve when they no longer drive, or live at a distance from friends and family. Researchers have recently found that even spouses in a strained relationship fare better in terms of health than their single counterparts. 

According to a recent Daily Mail Health report, people who live with a spouse are less likely to have high blood sugar levels that may lead to type 2 diabetes, even in their marriage is unhappy.  Researchers believe that couples positively influence one another’s behaviors such as eating a healthy diet or getting regular exercise; and with a partner to share expenses, it’s more likely that couples will have a bigger budget for healthy food, a gym membership, or other activities that support well being. 

Prior research found that marriage also provides health benefits that lengthen lifespan, and reduces the risk of stroke, heart attack, and depression.  Using data from more than 3,300 adults between 50 and 89 as part of the Longitudinal Study on Aging, researchers examined the number of people who were married or cohabiting, questioned them about the level of strain and support within the relationship and analyzed blood samples given every four years between 2004 and 2013. Experts found that those in a committed relationship had blood sugar levels 21 percent lower on average than older adults who were single, divorced or widowed. 

Surprisingly, even partners in strained or acrimonious relationships enjoyed better blood sugar levels than single people.  Adults going through marital transitions like divorce were found to have significant changes in their HbA1levels, raising their risk for pre-diabetes.  An estimated 4 million people in the UK are thought to have some form of diabetes.  Type 2 diabetes can lead to serious problems that affect nerves, vision and the heart. 

The Takeaway? 

A long-term committed relationship is a health benefit, no matter what your age – even with a certain amount of strife.  Researchers believe that following divorce or the loss of a spouse, older adults should be encouraged to seek out new relationships.  To read more, follow this link to the research findings, published in the BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care journal.