Married people are physically fitter, have stronger grips and walk quicker ‘because they are wealthier and live better’
- Researchers studied the physical abilities of 20,000 people aged 60 and over
- Walking speed and hand grip are important measures of older people’s health
- Married people may benefit from their other half nagging them to take care
Older people who are married are physically fitter, with a stronger grip and faster walking pace, a study has found.
Compared to unmarried people, they may be protected against disability in old age and live longer.
The health boost comes mainly from married people being wealthier and living better.
However, they may also benefit from their other half nagging them to take care of themselves.
A study has found older people who are married are physically fitter, with a stronger grip and faster walking pace
Researchers at University College London studied the physical capabilities of more than 20,000 people aged 60 and over in England and the US.
They found married English men walked 11 centimetres (4.3 inches) a second faster than unmarried men, with married women moving eight centimetres (3.1 inches) more quickly than those who had never married.
Divorced men were slower than married men, while divorced women had a weaker grip than women on their first marriage.
Experts believe the stress and upheaval of ending a marriage can take its toll on physical health.
HOW IS MARRIAGE GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH?
We’re social creatures – in the past we always lived in packs and groups and in today’s world with pressure and demands, it’s healthy to have a sounding board to share the ups and downs of the day.
In 2010, the World Health Organisation found marriage can reduce the risk of depression and anxiety and singles are more likely to suffer the blues than those who are married.
Last year, Aston Medical School in Birmingham released details of a 13-year study of one million participants and concluded that being married is better for your health than being single. Married individuals were less likely to die from conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
The researchers cited that one reason for improved health was the encouragement received from their partner to eat healthy, get enough exercise and take their medication. Perhaps not surprisingly, men fared even better than women.
Source: Dr Jen Nash, clinical psychologist
Dr Natasha Wood, who led the study from UCL’s Institute of Education, said: ‘This study found that married people have better physical capabilities based on grip strength and walking speed.
‘More people are entering old age having never married, divorced or been widowed, who may experience more difficulties with everyday activities.’
Walking speed and hand grip are important measures of older people’s health.
Those who shuffle slowly or struggle to open a jam jar have been found to be at greater risk of losing their independence, ending up needing social care or dying at a younger age.
Researchers wanted to see if these capabilities differed in older people on their first marriage, who had remarried, never married or were divorced or widowed.
They found lifelong bachelors in England had a weaker grip than men on their first marriage, by approximately two per cent.
Women’s grip was also two per cent weaker in those who had never married compared to those on their first marriage.
Researchers asked people for their incomes, assets and debt, finding that most of the advantages of being married come from being wealthier.
However, disregarding wealth, remarried men still had a stronger grip than unmarried men.
Men on their first marriage also had a faster walking speed than those who had never married or were widowed.
The study, published in the journal PLOS One, suggests men may benefit more from being married than women.
Dr Wood said: ‘We do not know if people who are healthier tend to get married or if it is the other way around and something about being married promotes good health.
‘But the importance of wealth in explaining much of the poorer physical capability among older unmarried people suggests that protecting and improving the financial circumstances of unmarried people may help to ensure they’re on a level playing field with married people in terms of physical capability and independent living in later life.’