Marriage really is good for you, with a major international study finding it reduces the risks of depression and anxiety, but these disorders are more likely to plague people once the relationship is over.
The study of 34,493 people across 15 countries was led by clinical psychologist Kate Scott from New Zealand’s University of Otago, and is based on the WHO World Mental Health (WMH) surveys conducted over the past decade.
It found that ending marriage through separation, divorce or death is linked to an increased risk of mental health disorders, with women more likely to resort to substance abuse and men more likely to become depressed
“What makes this investigation unique and more robust is the sample is so large and across so many countries and the fact that we have data not only on depression… but also on anxiety and substance use disorders,” Scott said in a statement.
“In addition, we were able to look at what happens to mental health in marriage, both in comparison with never getting married, and with ending marriage.”
Scott said that the study found that getting married, compared to not getting married, was good for the mental health of both genders, not just women, as previous studies had found.
The study, however, did find that men are less likely to become depressed in their first marriage than women, a factor Scott said was probably linked to the traditional gender roles at home, as other WMH surveys have shown that as women get better educated, depression rates tend to fall.
The other gender difference the study found is that getting married reduces risk of substance use disorders more for women than for men. Scott said this may be explained by the fact that women are usually the primary caregiver for young children
However, the downside of marriage, the University of Otago study shows, is that ending it has a negative impact on both genders.
“What our study points to is that the marital relationship offers a lot of mental health benefits for both men and women, and that the distress and disruption associated with ending marriage can make people vulnerable to developing mental disorders,” Scott said.
The study was recently published in the British journal Psychological Medicine. It was conducted in association with the World Health Organization, Harvard University and a number of other international organisations.