Marriage- A Potential Stress-Buster!!!

Forgive me Shakespeare for borrowing your great lines “To be or not to be” that is the question. Are you too going through this dilemma whether to marry or not to marry? Are you commitment-phobic and do not have faith in the institution of marriage? Do you want reasons to take the ultimate plunge? We say by all means go ahead and get married. A recent study shows that married couples have reduced responses to stress. Besides being great for the health, marital bliss can be a great stress-buster too.

The Study
This study was conducted by Dario Maestripieri, Professor in Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago. He was assisted by a research team from the Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. 500 postgraduate students from the Booth School of Business, University of Chicago took part in this research. This group included 153 female students with an average age of 27 and 348 male students with an average age of 29. Around 40% men and 53% women in the group were either married or were in a romantic relationship. These participants played a series of games on the computer to test their economic behavior. Their saliva samples were collected before as well as after the games. The hormonal levels and the corresponding changes were measured. The participants were told that the computer test was one of the course requirements and would immensely affect their future careers. Thus, making the test a stressful one. This was done to affect the cortisol level, the stress hormone.

The Findings
The following observations were made in this study:

  • The cortisol levels shot up in all the students
  • The level increased more in females than the males
  • Decrease in testosterone levels in men was observed
  • No change in the testosterone levels was seen in women

Besides these significant finding one more interesting observation came into light. Maestripieri found that unpaired or single individuals of both the sexes had higher cortisol levels compared to the married individuals.

The study is published in the journal Stress.

The Conclusion
According to Dario Maestripieri who is the lead author of the study:

  • Marriages are stressful (No doubt about that)
  • It makes other stress in life easier to handle
  • Marital relationship dampens the effect of cortisol responses to the psychological stress
  • Single students display higher levels of baseline testosterone than their married counterparts
  • Marriage acts as a buffer against stress
  • Similar changes are observed among birds and other primates too

Therefore, if you are single and totally stressed out, then taking the wedding vows doesn’t seem such a bad proposition after all.

Co-authors of the study
Nicole Baran, a graduate from the University of Chicago presently a graduate student at Cornell University
Luigi Zingales, Professor (Entrepreneurship and Finance), Booth School of Business, University of Chicago
Paola Sapienza, Professor (Finance) at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management

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