Most of us are aware that married people are healthier than singles; even though all marriages involve disagreements. The latest refinement addressing the relationship between marriage and good health discloses that the healthiest marital conflict resolution templates reaffirm the parties mutual affection, and avoid disrupting the sense of control. Professor Jan Kiecolt-Glaser of the Ohio State University College of Medicine told a reporter for the New York Times Magazine (April 18, 2010, p. 50):
[T]he overall health lesson to take away from the new wave of marriage-and-health literature is that couples should first work to repair a troubled relationship and learn to fight without hostility and derision. But if staying married means living amid constant acrimony, from the point of view of your health, “you’re better off out of it”.
Dysfunctional or failed marriages result in permanent physical harm. The harm includes greater susceptibility to heart disease and diabetes, and “less graceful” aging. The permanent damage is similar to that caused by smoking; it is only partially mitigated by later remarriage.
Marital discord impacts health in a different way for each sex. You might expect that disagreement in a marriage (the frequency or duration of disputes) would have a significant health consequence. It doesn’t. Rather, what compromises a woman’s physical health is an argument lacking any expression of affection for her spouse; and what damages a man’s health is a dispute raising the issue of control.
Another study found marital partners experienced less immediate stress when a stranger held their hand. The stress reduction was even more pronounced if the hand-holder was a spouse. Thus, a marriage’s impact on physical health can also be positive.