News / USA

Elderly Couples Demonstrate Benefits of Long Marriage

A happy marriage - or a permanent committed relationship - have long been associated with longevity and better health
A happy marriage - or a permanent committed relationship - have long been associated with longevity and better health


Carolyn Weaver

At 88 and 85, Joe and Georgia Mark are still quick-steppers and affectionate banterers, who share everything except for Joe’s passion for golf. “I was never too interested,” said Georgia, as Joe putted a golf ball in the living room. “But Joe’s a great golfer, no question about that.”

They live in Brooklyn, where they met on a blind date in 1943, and spent the afternoon dancing at a Chinese restaurant. “We danced through the whole thing,” Joe Mark recalled recently at an interview at their apartment. “I was a good dancer, but she was a great dancer. I didn’t even eat the Chinese food. Jeez, we paid for something and didn’t even eat it,” he said, with a laugh. “And this July, it’ll be 67 years we’re married. We’re like the government. We plan ahead."

In their decades together, they have raised two schoolteacher daughters and helped raise two grandsons. Joe ran his own dry cleaning business, and survived two bouts of cancer and a heart attack. “You are a survivor, twice. Thank God, because I won’t let you die, no matter what,” Georgia Mark said to her husband, in a briefly serious moment, as they sat drinking coffee in their kitchen, opposite a wall covered with family snapshots.

Georgia Mark could be right about her importance to her husband’s health. Studies have found that married people have better physical and emotional health, in general, than single individuals, and tend to live longer. One study cited earlier this year in the Student British Medical Journal found that mortality rates among married people in all seven European countries surveyed were 10 to 15 percent lower than among unmarried individuals. Deborah Carr, a professor of sociology at Rutgers University in New Jersey, notes that one reason is economic: married couples tend to have more money than single individuals, especially if both spouses work. But Carr said that people who marry also tend to be healthier to begin with, and then gain from having a partner who cares for them, both practically and emotionally.

“When couples love each other, they watch out for each other,” she said. “The wife will make her husband healthy meals and give him his medication, the husband will take the woman’s arm as she is walking on a slippery ice patch. So, there really are very direct things that husbands and wives do to protect each other’s health, physically. And then perhaps the most important one is the emotional. Having someone you can talk to, having someone you can share your feelings with: that has very real effects for emotional health and physical health.”

Carr observed that it's hard to know to what degree a stable marriage leads to better health - or is a result of it. The stress of health problems or substance abuse can undo a marriage that once seemed strong. Financial insecurity, too, makes marriage more difficult both to begin and sustain.Carr also added that in some countries where women lack equality and where divorce is illegal or stigmatized, a long marriage doesn’t necessarily mean better health. That is because unhappy, high-conflict marriages are even more strongly associated with ill health than is single status, especially for women.

In developed countries, she said, men still tend to show more of a physical-health advantage from marriage than do married women, perhaps because women tend to do more care-taking of their spouses than do men. But both genders suffer from less depression when they are married, she said. And not surprisingly, as married people age, they often argue less, and enjoy each other’s company even more, like Joe and Georgia Mark, who 68 years after they met, say they are still each other’s best friends.

You May Like

Guatemala Mudslide Death Toll Rises to 86

Death toll is expected to continue to rise as emergency crews dig through tons of earth for an estimated 350 people still missing More

Debris Found in Search for Missing Ship

Objects located Sunday have not yet been confirmed to be from the 240 meter container ship, El Faro, which disappeared in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin, according to US Coast Guard More

Survivor: Gunman Spared 'Lucky One' to Give Police Message

Law enforcement official says a manifesto of several pages was recovered; contents not revealed More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs