Tumin’s findings follow on the heels of a 16-year study of Swiss adults that found married people experienced no fewer illnesses than when they were single. According to their reports of overall health, study participants actually became slightly less healthy after marrying.
Similarly unromantic findings have been accumulating about the implications of marriage for happiness. A 2012 review of 18 studies of happiness, life satisfaction and relationship satisfaction in the "Journal of Personality and Social Psychology" showed that people who married experienced no greater well-being than when they were single. At best, they felt a bit more satisfied as newlyweds. But even this honeymoon effect declines over time.
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All this led Tumin to believe that marriage is not as beneficial as it once was. Maybe your grandparents were healthier after they married, but you probably won’t be.
It is also possible, though, that the benefits of marrying have been overstated all along. Social scientists often give marriage an unfair advantage when, for example, they focus on marriages that last and ignore the ones that end in divorce.
'The one' vs. 'the ones'
When social scientists were sure that people who married were healthier, they thought they knew why. People who marry, they suggested, “have someone,” and single people do not. Married people support each other in good times and bad. They monitor each other, so that they eat more vegetables or resist inclinations to drink to excess. People who marry are also rewarded with considerable material advantages, including tax breaks and access to a spouse’s health care plan.
But if marriage comes with so many advantages, why don’t people reliably become healthier and happier after they marry?
The focus on the advantages of marriage and disadvantages of single life has left us oblivious to the equally significant flip sides: the disadvantages of marriage and the advantages of single life.
We believe married people “have someone” and single people do not. But research has shown that it is single people who more often maintain their ties with friends, neighbors, siblings and parents. In contrast, couples tend to turn inward after they marry, paying less attention to their friends and parents. Married people have “the one,” but single people have “the ones.”