Lonely? Feeling low? Try taking a walk -- down the aisle. Getting married enhances mental health, especially if you’re depressed, according to a new U.S. study.
The benefits of marriage for the depressed are particularly dramatic, a finding that surprised the professor-student team behind the study.
“We actually found the opposite of what we expected,” said Adrianne Frech, a PhD sociology student at Ohio State University who conducted the study with Kristi Williams, an assistant professor of sociology.
They expected to find that one spouse’s depression weighed too much on the marriage, but “just mattering to someone else can help alleviate symptoms of depression,” Frech said.
Frech will present their findings at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting in Montreal on Sunday.
The researchers used a 3,066 person sample that measured symptoms of depression -- such as an inability to sleep, or persistent sadness -- in the same people both before and after their first marriage.
They found that depressed people experienced a much more extreme decrease in the incidence of those symptoms.
“Depressed people may be just especially in need of the intimacy, the emotional closeness and the social support that marriage can provide ... if you start out happy, you don’t have as far to go,” Williams said.
On the other hand, if you’re not depressed, marriage could have the opposite effect, Frech said.
People who were happy before getting married and end up in a marriage plagued by distance or conflict -- qualities associated with a depressed spouse -- might be better off single.
“It seems right to say that people who are not depressed are at risk, that if they marry a depressed person this could be a bad deal for them,” Frech said.