Family intactness has a negative (decreasing) influence on an area’s fraction of 25- to 54-year-olds and minors receiving public healthcare,1) and a positive (increasing) influence on an area’s fraction of 25- to 54-year-olds and minors with private healthcare coverage.2) Married men and women are also more likely to have health insurance.3) Furthermore, married individuals occupy hospitals and health institutions less often than others,4) are released from hospitals sooner, on average, than unmarried individuals,5) and spend half as much time in hospitals as single individuals.6) Married individuals are also less likely to go to a nursing home from the hospital.7) Not surprisingly, marriage also affects an individual's health.
A lower fraction of married persons than widowed, divorced or separated, never-married, or cohabiting persons have only “fair to poor health.”8) Married women rate their health better than do divorced, separated, widowed, and never-married women.9) Married individuals smoke and binge-drink less frequently than cohabiters.10) Women who marry lessen their alcohol consumption, while married men whose marriages break up increase their alcohol consumption and cigarette use.11) Married young adults are less likely to be alcoholic than young adults who are not in a romantic relationship.12)
Always-intact married adults are less likely than married, previously divorced adults and unmarried adults to report that they sometimes drink too much alcohol. According to the General Social Survey (GSS), 32.8 percent of always-intact married adults have reported that they sometimes drink too much alcohol, followed by 38.5 percent of married, previously-divorced adults, 43.2 percent of single, divorced or separated adults, and 47.8 percent of single, never-married adults. 13) (See Chart Below)
Married men and women have higher survival rates after being diagnosed with cancer, regardless of the stage of the cancer’s progression, than do their unmarried counterparts.14) Married persons’ responses to cancer treatment are better and are comparable to those of people 10 years younger.15) After being diagnosed with prostate cancer, married men live longer.16) Unmarried women with breast cancer are more likely to be diagnosed later and have higher three-year (breast cancer-specific) morbidity.17) Similarly, a smaller ratio of married individuals die of cirrhosis of the liver, lung cancer, tuberculosis, and diabetes than never-married, divorced, and widowed individuals, controlling for age.18) Married people are less likely to die after being hospitalized for a heart attack.19) Always single and widowed men and women have higher stroke risks than married men and women.20) Marriage also has significant benefits for an individual’s mental health.
Married people have lower mortality rates,21) including lower risk of death from accidents, disease, self-inflicted injuries,22) and suicide.23) Compared to those who are married, those who are divorced/ separated have an 83 percent higher risk of suicide, those who are never married have a 48 percent higher risk, and those who are widowed have a 41 percent higher risk.24) The longer a person’s marriage, the lower is their mortality risk, relative to that of the unmarried.25) Having children further reduces the risk of suicide. Marital unions without children have a 33 percent lower risk of suicide than single adults, whereas marital unions with children experience a 48 percent decreased risk.26)
Married mothers practice better prenatal care and more consistently avoid harmful substances than unmarried mothers do.27) Married mothers are less likely to have low birth weight children than stably cohabiting mothers or mothers involved in a romantic relationship with their baby’s father.28) Married women have significantly fewer abortions than unmarried women.29)
According to the National Health and Social Life Survey, those in always-intact marriages were least likely to have ever had a sexually transmitted disease (1.3 percent). Sexually transmitted disease is more prevalent in non-intact family structures and among singles: 1.8 percent of those who were always single have had a sexually transmitted disease; 3 percent of those who were divorced or separated have had a sexually transmitted disease and 3.1 percent of those who were divorced and remarried had ever had a sexually transmitted disease.30) (See Chart Below)
Children and adolescents from intact married families enjoy more emotional and behavioral well-being than children in cohabiting or step families.31) According to the National Survey of Children’s Health, children who live with both biological parents score lower on the behavior problems scale (49.0) than those who live with a biological parent and a stepparent (51.8),32) and children who live with both biological parents or two adoptive parents are more socially developed than those who do not.33) Adolescents who live with both biological parents are less likely to use hard drugs than those living in step-families, those whose parents have divorced, or those raised by a cohabiting single parent.34) Similarly, according to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, children who live with both biological parents are less likely to get drunk.35)
According to the Adolescent Health Survey (Wave I), female students in Grades 7-12 have an average of 0.71 sexual partners when they live in intact married families, whereas those who have a stepparent or divorced parents have an average of 1.39 and 1.29 sexual partners, respectively.37) (See Chart Below)