Married people live longer too. The average risk of dying each year
is lower if you are married - the effect is greater for men. A national
US survey of in the late 1980s of 6,484 people suggests one reason could
be that many spouses "monitor and attempt to control their spouse's
health behaviours" - encouraging them to go for health checks, take
medication, loose weight, exercise, go easy on alcohol. Women are more
likely to take responsibility for their spouses' health.
A Scottish study in 1992 found a different explanation for the "health benefit" of marriage . Researchers wanted to find out how marriage kept so many of 1,042 55 year olds healthy. Was it because spouses tend to take better care of their health? Was it because married people are more likely to be better off? Divorce and separation creates poverty as we will see later. Was it because of lower stress levels or better social support within marriage ? They found evidence that better material resources, lower stress levels and how supported people felt could affect health.
Remarriage can also be good for health - especially if the marriage is happy and decision making is shared. The fewer children there are involved in the new household, the healthier a remarried woman will tend to be, most of all when all the children at home are her own.
Not all researchers have found all these benefits. For example, a study of 21 and 24 year olds found no link between marriage and emotional or physical well-being, so perhaps it takes some years for effects to show.
So then we have seen that the dream of lifelong happiness with a faithful partner is very much alive and if anything becoming stronger. As it does, so the pressures against the sex revolution continue to grow. Long term relationships become even more important the older you get, and our population is getting older.
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So much of the 1960s to 1990s sexual culture has just been a culture
of the young. Yet there is more to adulthood than the aspirations of
those in their twenties, and older people are making their presence
felt. They also are a force for change. They have sex lives too and
values which are more restrained.
Those of retirement age have always been more conservative while as we have seen the next layer down are altering their views as they live long enough to count the cost.
There is a lack of youth in many developed nations. Europe has the lowest birth rate of its entire history - only 1.48 children per woman in a lifetime. At the same time there is a big bulge of 55-70 year old men and women with fewer dependants, yet with time, money and influence.
Five years ago a company wanting to sell vacuum cleaners on television would show a young and glamorous woman - not wearing a wedding ring. If there was a man in the ad he would be portrayed as her live-in partner.
Now the woman is likely to be in her fifties, married, with a husband portrayed as a "new man", retired, at home, sharing household duties, enjoying a new lease of life together. Our culture is a collection of the images it invents for itself. Here is a dramatic change of image as companies fall over themselves to court this growing market.
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