New Study: Marriage Reduces Stress-related Hormone Production

Mon Aug 23, 2010 - 12:15 pm EST

By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

CHICAGO, August 23 2010 ( - The evidence for the health benefits of marriage has received a new boost by a study which showed that levels of the stress hormone cortisol were lower in married individuals than in single and unpaired individuals.

"These results suggest that single and unpaired individuals are more responsive to psychological stress than married individuals, a finding consistent with a growing body of evidence showing that marriage and social support can buffer against stress," said Dario Maestripieri, Professor in Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago and lead author of the study, published in the current issue of the journal Stress.

The team of researchers studied 500 masters' degree students, with an average age of 27, at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. About 40 percent of the 348 men and 53 percent of the 153 women were married or in long-term relationships.

The students were asked to take a set of computerized economic decision-making tests, and were told that the tests were a course requirement and would impact their future career placement, in order to increase the potential for stress response.

The researchers found cortisol concentrations increased in all participants, but females experienced a higher average increase than males.

However, the married students experienced a smaller increase in the stress hormone that single students.

"We found that unpaired individuals of both sexes had higher cortisol levels than married individuals," Maestripieri said.

The researchers also noted that "single males without a stable romantic partner had higher testosterone levels than males with stable partners, and both males and females without a partner showed a greater cortisol response to the test than married individuals with or without children."

"Although marriage can be pretty stressful, it should make it easier for people to handle other stressors in their lives," Maestripieri wrote in the study report, titled "Between- and Within-sex Variations in Hormonal Responses to Psychological Stress in a Large Sample of College Students."

"What we found is that marriage has a dampening effect on cortisol responses to psychological stress, and that is very new," Maestripieri concluded.

 A summary of this study with links to the full text is available here.

See related LSN articles:

Marriage Benefits Health: For Men Staying Single 'Worse Than Smoking'

Happily Married Men and Women Have Lower Blood Pressure, Other Health Benefits

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