The anniversary dance has been a staple at weddings for many years. Married couples are called to the dance floor, and then eliminated one by one based on their years together until the couple married the longest is left to spin on the floor alone. It’s said to be a sign of good luck for the newlyweds, and often the winning couple will be called upon to offer some advice as to how to keep a marriage happy for so long.
It’s a lovely tradition, but some research suggests that such a dance (couples married 40, 50, 60 years…) is very telling—being married may contribute to increased longevity.
Some of this claim can be attributed to simple cause and effect. Married couples have an automatic ‘buddy’ to help keep an eye on their health, contribute to their emotional well-being, and assist them with the stressors of day to day life. But some studies indicate that there are even more links between marriage and lifespan.
Marriage reduces the risk of cancer and heart disease (if you’re a man) – A study by Harvard University showed a tremendous difference between mortality rates in married and unmarried men. Specifically, married men showed a much lower risk of dying from cancer or cardiovascular disease compared to singles. The link seems to derive from spousal support—married men are more likely to track wellness, seek preventative testing, and benefit from the emotional support of their partner.
Marriage helps you cope – One of the pitfalls of aging is a decline in social interaction, but married people benefit from the presence of their partners on many levels. In addition to the social aspect of marriage, couples are also gifted with greater emotional stability, financial support, and higher self-esteem. Having someone to turn to in times of stress provides tremendous mental health benefits. Similarly, people who are married tend to experience fewer instances of depression, loneliness, and substance abuse than singles.
Happy marriage, longer life – Here too, men appear to reap the benefits of a successful marriage a bit more than women, but on the whole, marriage and family seem to increase longevity. Research indicates that married people are 10-15% less likely to die early than the general population. Having ‘something to live for’ is a huge incentive and one that seems to point toward married lives being longer. This is not to say that singles do not have the same drive, or just as much value to their lives, but psychologists believe that being single may lead to a life more centered to the self rather than to an outside source. Married individuals tend to be more vigilant about self-care, more likely to maintain health treatments, and less apt to die by suicide.
The real keyword here is ‘happy’. Someone who is happily single can still reap the benefits of longevity associated with marriage, just as an unhappy marriage may negate them. But if you find yourself the lone couple of the dance floor during the next anniversary waltz, take a few extra spins knowing that you and your partner are helping each other live your best life!