You’ve probably heard of the “marriage tax.” It amounts to something like $10,000 per year if filing jointly instead of individually. But what Uncle Sam “taketh away,” you perhaps make up thanks to a healthier lifestyle.
A significant reduction in “lifestyle disease” among married couples is no huge surprise. One just has to consider, perhaps wistfully, your single life for a few seconds to make this clear. Single people tend to live life at the extremes. There typically is more drinking, smoking, not sleeping or eating right, and in general fast-lane living among the unattached. We might want to blame this on youthful exuberance, but we also see this behavior rediscovered in divorced middle-aged people. Married folks tend to moderate each other’s behavior and consequently the lifestyle diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease are significantly reduced.
All manner of traumatic death is also dramatically reduced in the married population. With a little more sleep, and less alcohol, motor vehicle fatalities are much lower among married people. I gave up skydiving once I got married, perhaps saving me a violent end. Other violent deaths like suicide are also much lower. Depression, perhaps not coincidentally, is lower in people with a soul mate.
If cancer is one of your big fears in life, marriage is one of your best defenses. The lifestyle cancers attributed to smoking and drinking are all understandably reduced, most notably lung cancer.
Interestingly enough, the cancers having no obvious connection to any specific human behavior are similarly reduced in the married population. Lymphoma, leukemia and pancreatic cancer are examples. In fact, the fatality rate from virtually any cancer you can name is lower among the married.
Most startling to me during my medical education was the lower death rate in married people goes across the vast spectrum of human disease and frailty. Pick the wildest thing you can think of – death by shark attack, getting hit by lightening – and you are less likely to die of that while you are married.
So let Uncle Sam take his cut, the pay off is married people have a better chance of living a longer, healthier life.