Do you know the cliché about “the rock”? That’s what married people often call their spouse, especially in times of difficulty. In the media, the same sort of story is popular: When one person in a couple seems to be there for their partner, the first person is called “the rock.”
Supposedly, the social support that one spouse can give to another is supposed to result in married people being mentally and physically healthier than single people. I have debunked the myth that if you get married, you will get healthier, in Singled Out.
Now there are some brand new data, thanks to a RAND report on the Wounded Warrior Project.
Members of the military who were wounded after September 11, 2001 were invited to register for the Project, which is “a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to honor and empower wounded warriors by raising awareness about the needs of injured service members, helping them assist one another, and providing programs that nurture the mind and body and encourage economic empowerment and engagement.” Then, in 2010 and again in 2011, the vets were invited to participate in an online survey about their mental and physical health, their education, work status, and home ownership status.
Results were similar for the two years, so here I will report the results for 2011, in which more than twice as many wounded warriors participated (2312 of them) than in the previous year. There were also nearly 500 warriors who participated at both points in time. Those could have been very telling data if the authors had looked at whether the warriors’ health (or anything else) had changed as their marital status changed. However, no such analyses were reported.
I. MENTAL and PHYSICAL HEALTH
First, let’s consider how the warriors’ mental and physical health differed depending on whether they were married, divorced, or had always been single. (Results for the separated were also in the report, but since that group was the smallest, and results were very similar to those for the divorced, I have not included those numbers here.)
Below, I have listed the results for various measures of mental and physical health. There are lots of data, but the bottom line is straightforward: The wounded warriors who had always been single have the best mental health and physical health.
Specifically, the warriors who had always been single were:
- Least likely to report emotional problems that interfered with their work or other regular activities
- Least likely to have symptoms suggesting PTSD
- Best able to adapt or bounce back from illness, injury, or hardship
- Least likely to be depressed
- Least likely to report physical health problems that interfered with their work or other regular activities
- Least likely to be obese
Emotional problems interfered with work or other regular activities:
Has symptoms suggesting PTSD:
Able to adapt or bounce back from illness, injury, or hardship:
Physical health problems interfered with work or other regular activities:
In my next post, Part II (here it is), I will tell you how the wounded vets who were single, married, and divorced compared in their education, work status, and home ownership. In the meantime, feel free to post your guesses in the comments section.
[Note: Thanks to Natalya Anfilofyeva for the heads-up about the RAND report.]
Soldier photo available from Shutterstock