≡ Menu

Settling down…and settling for less…and extending one’s life for 5 Years

I read an article today about how marriage increases life expectancy five years. So staying single poses as much a health risk as smoking, yippee!

Here’s a summary of the existing research . Interesting conclusions: It affects the incidence of depression and access to health care:

Effects on Health Care Access, Use, and Costs. Marriage may influence physical health through its effects on health care access and use. Studies of the link between marriage and health insurance suggest that — by offering access to coverage through a spouse’s policy — marriage increases the likelihood of having insurance and reduces the likelihood of becoming uninsured after a job loss or other major life event.(19) This effect is larger for women. Recent research also finds a link between marriage and health care use. Marriage is associated with shorter average hospital stays, fewer doctor visits, and reduced risk of nursing home admission.(20, 21, 22) Limited evidence also suggests that marriage may increase the use of preventive care such as cancer screenings.(12)

Because of its effects on health care use, marriage is also associated with lower health care costs among older adults. For example, studies show that, because marriage reduces the risk of nursing home admission, marriage may also lead to reduced nursing home costs.(22) The effect of marriage in shortening hospital stays may also lead to reductions in health care costs. Research indicates that the effect of marriage on health care costs exists independent of the effect of marriage on physical health.(22) Specifically, many married people rely on their spouses for informal care, and thus require fewer long hospital stays and nursing home admissions, resulting in lower health care costs — even if married and unmarried older adults are equally likely to get sick.(20, 21) These studies find that wives are especially likely to provide informal care for their husbands at home, so the effect of marriage on health care costs may be larger for men.

Effects on Mental Health. Marriage may affect many aspects of mental health. This review focuses on the prevalence of depressive symptoms. The most recent rigorous research suggests that marriage reduces depressive symptoms for both men and women.(23, 24, 25, 26) In particular, these studies find that getting married decreases depressive symptoms, while getting divorced increases them. Research has also documented that increases in depressive symptoms after divorce are long-lasting and that the prevalence of these symptoms remains elevated years after the marital breakup.(27, 28) In addition, studies comparing the mental health of stably married adults to those who remain unmarried find that those who are stably married have fewer depressive symptoms (and smaller increases in these symptoms as they grow older), even after controlling for baseline mental health.(23, 25, 26)

Here’s a journalist article on the subject:

In a study conducted in 1988 involving 3000 married men and women, researchers tracked the health of couples for 15 years to come to this conclusion. What exactly lead them to this conclusion and what could be the causes for this?

Although the jury is still out on this one, there are various reasons attributed to why something like this occurs. The life expectancy contributed to marriage in men increases by at least 9 months whereas it does not affect women at all. Researchers say that the stronger women – women who are physically, emotionally, and financially more stable do not feel the need to get married and thereby often do not marry. For them, survival is a way of life. They are happy looking out for themselves and thereby live longer, whereas the less strong of the men – in all aspects, physical, emotional and financial, who do not marry are more likely to be unhappy and tend to live shorter lives. The more successful a man, the more likely he is to get married. A successful career and the strong family support that he presumably gets at home makes the quality of his life better, thereby allowing him to enjoy life more than his unmarried counterparts.

Here’s a slightly moronic but still interesting article by Lori Gottlieb  about why women in their thirties should settle for less than Mr. Right.  (Btw, my first thought after reading this was, I wonder if she is a hottie. Judge for yourself)

I’ve written about the plight of the single man (and woman) before. I’ll just say that meeting other people in the appropriate age bracket is extremely hard for people like me (aged 42). Namely:

  1. For the last 8 years I’ve worked in the high tech industry, which is predominantly  male-dominated. It’s rare to  meet people of the opposite sex; when you do, they are probably married.
  2. I participate in  social groups in Houston, most of which are the wrong demographic for me. I meet a lot of people over 50 in one group, lots of parents  in another group, lots of men in another group.
  3. I don’t have time to go to many arts events (like book clubs, etc). I would love to go to book clubs (and I’ve tried doing that before).  But the time commitment  can be enormous (and it interferes with my personal reading direction).
  4. I don’t know a single person at my apartment complex (except  one or two parents).
  5. I rarely am invited to parties or weddings (but am grateful at the few opportunities to go).
  6. I don’t like church. (This is partly related to the fact that I don’t like people who voted for George W. Bush, and church tends to be full of those types).
  7. I have tried online dating. I have tried it on and off for the last 14 years! There have been times when I’ve really invested time and energy in it; there have been other times when I’ve barely kept up with it. Most of the times I would draft a thoughtful initial letter…and get no response. Occasionally I’ve reached the first date, and twice I went on a second date, but most of the time, the woman stopped returning phone calls or email. (One of these two woman ended up stealing my Decalogue Box set). I’ve occasionally been contacted by females, and those dates have been mildly interesting, but almost always, these people drop out of the universe. My most successful dating experience (if you want to call it that) was when I put an ad in the Houston Press and received 5 responses. One was a charming and zany 18 year old girl who was a little too young and wild for me (I was 28 at the time). I didn’t feel the love connection, but I liked her to death (and could have been persuaded to be romantic). But she  disappeared without warning (such a flighty girl).  Anyway, one statistician Philip Zimbardo  figured out that it would take 19 years of continuous dating at eharmony even to reach a 50% probability of meeting your spouse there.
  8. I spend a lot of time at home writing and working on web projects and video projects. Doing these things is a solitary activity. The solitude does not bother me (occasionally it does), but it just sucks up all of my free time. Two years ago I grew to accept that my commitment to writing entailed such sacrifices.
  9. Over the last two years I’ve spent  time caring for a sick parent. That also takes up my free time.
  10. Ironically the time when I had the most time and freedom to date was also when  I was regarded as “damaged goods” by dating services. After saving up money for several years, I quit my work for 1 1/2 years to do   creative projects. It was a great time for me. But being unemployed counted as a strike against me. The ugly truth is that creative liberal women on dating sites  prefer conservative businessmen. Look for the key phrase, “likes to travel.”  (Translation: wants a comfortable standard of living provided by a reliable male income).
  11. Houston geography complicates things somewhat. It’s never particularly easy to meet people or bump into people or run into someone with similar interests. Even our gas stations don’t require human interaction anymore.
  12. I frequently am unable to tell who is married and who is unmarried. Also, I’m getting terrible at guessing people’s ages. Am I trying to hit on someone who is 25 or 34? Most of the time I have no idea.
  13. At the rare social events I attend, it is often impossible to actually talk to potentially single people (for more than  60 seconds, I  mean). You don’t have to be a chatty Kathy, but if I can’t have a sustained conversation with you, I don’t know what to do. I can handle a little diffidence, but if the woman is just not facilitating any kind of   conversation, I have no choice but to interpret that as lack of interest.
  14. When  overseas, I made lots of friends with female students and younger teachers. It was a delight. Unfortunately this College Prof/Student relationship is fraught with danger and a little unfair. You never feel like you are at an equal level when talking to  the female.
  15. If I took a night class or a yoga class or a dance class, that could probably  introduce me to some single people. I’ve found that these leisure classes have much fewer single people than you might expect (the class is mainly filled with bored –and married–housewives). The main problem is time. No one wants to take random classes just on the off-chance that Ms. Right might have the same notion.  Taking a class just to “put  “put myself out there” seems like a recipe for further exhaustion.
  16. As an average-looking person, I can hardly have unrealistic demands about the appearance of a potential date.  But sometimes a person doesn’t even try.  One woman contacted me through an online dating service. She seemed nice, interesting and we shared similar interests, but the photos she put of herself on the dating site were  absolutely ghastly. It was as if she went out of her way to find the least flattering photos  of herself. I felt certain she looked better than her photos, but the idea  she wouldn’t even try to find a nice photo bothered me. Even average-looking people can try to look good once in a while.
  17. One additional problem is not only my schedule but the schedule of eligible females (most of whom are divorcees with children). Those people have less time than I do to socialize.

Maybe this sounds like I’m whining. I’m not really, just pointing out roadblocks which prevent me from meeting dateable people.  Although I’m a little weird and overeducated, I generally get along with people, am  open about things and honest to a fault. Also, I do well at parties; I like to talk.  The author of the Settling article wants us to think there’s a looming shortage of men out there. That’s not the problem. The problem is that there’s not enough situations for meeting people. Urban landscapes (and class issues) play a part in reducing social interactions.  Overseas I met a lot of people, partly because I was a teacher (and a foreigner), but also because Europeans had more opportunities to meet their neighbors. Welcome to Houston. An Albanian once asked me if I missed my Houston friends. I replied, “Not at all –I have many more friends in Albania!”)

Still that five year lower life expectancy scares me.  By the way, the time it took me to write this blogpost could have been better spent responding to some online dating ads. Arrrrgh!

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • VN 5/8/2008, 4:23 am

    What is more scares you ? 5 year lower life expectancy or the fact that you are still single? I think the answer is second one. Try to squeeze more time to social events, no one stop you from joining some kind of let say language courses, or dancing courses. It may be anywhere where people gathering, the only thing is you should find the one which is best suit you. Internet is also some opportunity to chat with potential spouse, why not? try to not chat for a months if you think that you have a common interests and sympathy, then just go ahead…why not try to set up a kind of a date asking her to have a cup of coffee together and also it would be better if you see each other in real life… i think you can do this, be more open to people…good luck

Leave a Comment