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August 26, 2008

In singlehood and in health

Filed under: News — posted by Jackie @ 11:54 am

News from The American Sociological Association: “For years, researchers have known that adults who have swapped rings say they are healthier than their never-married peers are. According to a recent study, though, singles are catching up when it comes to good health.”

Among self-reports by adults ages 25 to 80, never-married folks reported a quality of health close to that of all those hale and glowing married folks in the New York Times.

But wait! The ASA article is all about “never-married adults” and “people” and otherwise gender-neutralicious until paragraph 5. Then this: “This narrowing health gap between the married and the never married applies only to men, but not women.” Hey! No fair burying the lede, and … no fair! The piece also doesn’t mention that the apparent health benefits of marriage apply predominately to men in the first place.

One explanation offered: today’s culture might offer never-married men “greater access to [the kind of] social resources and support” — like that used to come, you know, only from a wife. (So, like, now it’s the guys from rotisserie baseball who are saying, “Dude, you should get that mole checked out”?)

Of course, experts note, we still can’t say for sure that — to the degree that a health gap persists — marriage is its sole or definitive cause. Cohabitation, for one, throws in a wild card.

So we’re not really sure what this study is saying, though you definitely should get that mole checked out. Okay, it does posit that married folks are — far as they tell researchers — healthier than our widowed, divorced, and separated friends, because, you know, breakups are stressful. But what about single women? What about the role of insurance coverage?

CBS News, with a glass-half-empty lede (“Getting married doesn’t improve one’s health as much as it used to”), also throws this curve ball: “Encouraging marriage in order to promote health may be misguided,” the researchers write. “In fact, getting married increases one’s risk for eventual marital dissolution, and marital dissolution seems to be worse for self-rated health now than at any point in the past three decades.” Ah, the old “avoid getting together because you might break up” plan. Thanks, American Excuse Association!

Of course there’s a role in the world for broad sociological research (not to mention, ahem, incisive, tough-question journalism). But over here at BG Labs, seems to us the key is to find a healthy relationship, and/or, to feel pretty damn okay (at least in the meantime) about being single.

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