PROVO, Utah — There's a lot to be said for saying "I do."
And it goes beyond the romantic notions of happily ever after.
How about healthily, wealthily ever after?
people have higher levels of physical, emotional and cognitive health,
along with greater earning potential, a sociologist told a group at BYU
Linda Waite, a professor
of sociology from the University of Chicago, provided hard data for the
often emotionally fueled arguments in favor of traditional marriage at
the sixth annual Marjorie Pay Hinckley Lecture.
"What I argue, and in my view, the research evidence supports, is that marriage itself changes people's choices," Waite said.
When their choices change, their behavior changes, which results in greater health.
the) most basic fundamental health indicator, it's very clear that
married people are advantaged," she said, showing a graph with
life-expectancy lines for men and women that were higher for married
individuals than their single, widowed or divorced counterparts.
And this refers to traditional marriages, she said, not cohabitation, marriage-like arrangements or alternatives to marriage.
being married doesn't just help you live longer. Other graphs showed
higher levels of mental health and cognitive function for married
couples than for single people living alone, with other adults or with
their own children.
that for both men and women, marriage improves mental health," Waite
said. "And it declines when they lose a marriage."
fact, divorce or widowhood is so stressful that "being divorced or
widowed leaves a mark on physical health even years later," she said.
remarrying improves mental health, it can't make up for the damaging
periods of poor sleep, nutrition and exercise during a stressful time,
Marriage also benefits
the parties financially, as women have someone to provide for them and
their children, and men earn more money than they did when they were
single, because of an improved work ethic.
Those findings are nothing new to BYU professors, who study social trends of marriage and family through the LDS lens.
at BYU, there's a religious motivation behind the importance of
marriage," said Renata Forste, a sociology professor who studied in
Chicago, where she met Waite. "But there's also empirical evidence that
shows that married people do better."
like Waite's build on the legacy of Sister Hinckley and her focus on
the family through research and education, said Stephen Bahr, a
professor of sociology at BYU who is on the Marjorie Pay Hinckley
Advisory Committee responsible for arranging the lectures.
than simply advocating a position is to focus on the research," Bahr
said. "As students learn to do good research, the research will speak
for itself, as hers did."
more people who understand the scientifically proven benefits of
marriage, not only for them, but for society in general, the more
attitudes will hopefully shift to being protective and supportive of
traditional marriage, Waite said.
most important thing is to speak up, in love, for the truth about
marriage," said Maggie Gallagher, president of the National
Organization for Marriage and co-author with Waite on the book, "The
Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and
Better Off Financially."
it's less about which arguments are more or less effective than it is
about the attempt to intimidate or embarrass marriage supporters into
silence," Gallagher told the Deseret News, "especially those of us who
believe marriage is and should remain in America the union of one man
with one woman."
Gallagher said it's important to talk to children, siblings, friends and family members about why marriage matters so much.
tend to raise kids to be good workers and students," she said. "We need
to raise them as well to be and to value being good husbands and wives,
because children need moms and dads they can count on."
"Why Marriage Matters"
2002, a group of family scholars, including Linda Waite, produced a
report, "Why Marriage Matters," sponsored by the Institute for American
- In the report, they summarized three fundamental conclusions about marriage:Marriage is an important social good.
- Marriage is an important public good.
- The benefits of marriage extend to poor and minority communities.