smason edit.jpg (23187 bytes)Look At It This Way
by Dr. Steve Mason

We make some of our greatest gains
When we see old things
In new ways

The Health Hazards of Being Single

People talk about having a good diet and doing exercise as a way of staying mentally and physically fit but it seems that simply being married can be just as important to your health.

A national survey of 123,859 Americans concluded that both men and women are less likely to report having chronic health conditions if they are married than if they are not. And, interestingly enough, married people also had fewer accidents than their single friends, with divorced women having the greatest number...nearly twice as many as married women. 

In fact, unmarried women seem to run an especially high risk in several other categories as well. There were six times as many deaths from pneumonia and thirty percent more physician visits among single and divorced women as there were among their married peer group. Laboratory tests indicated that the immune systems of unattached females were also more apt to be faulty and this would, of course, make the occurrence of a wide range of illnesses far more likely.

Comparing the number of sick days to an individual's marital status gave the following results:

Married = 6.0 sick days per year
Single = 7.3 sick days per year
Divorced = 9.8 sick days per year
Widowed = 9.8 sick days per year

A point of interest in reviewing these figures involved a significant difference between widowed men and widowed women. While widowed women suffered 11.8 sick days per year, widowed men actually fared bettered than divorced men and reported only 7.8 sick days per year.

While the actual numbers may vary from one study to another, they always point in the same direction. What's more, if you travel through time and space you will find the same story...humans just naturally pair up. Clearly, Mother Nature has spoken.

So how do you account for those who go around wearing their single status like a chip on their shoulder? A while back, I asked what I thought was a simple enough question: Why might some people prefer going spouseless even when they meet a seemingly ideal mate? I can think of several reasons and none of them are slanderous or demeaning. Yet there followed such a gnashing of teeth and foaming from the mouth that I had to wonder what might provoke such an exaggerated response. It's as though they felt being single is some sort of slur.

Of course, it's not unusual for people who don't have an answer to try and find something wrong with the person who asked the question but this was all out of proportion. One reader did send me twenty answers - talk about perseveration - but when I went to the site he'd listed, it was full of match making services. And there's even a lady who, as far as I can tell, spends all her time writing about why it's OK to be single. Who convinced her it wasn't? Anyone taking so much as a single semester of Psych 101 who can't put a label on such behavior doesn't deserve to get a passing grade.

As is so often written at the end of articles found in professional journals, this is an area that calls for more research.

Anyway, after compiling these data, the national health agency that did the interviews suggested that doctors should routinely inquire about their patient's marital status. Being alone, it seems, can very definitely be hazardous to your health...physical and mental.

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