The Married Man

Dr. Steve Mason

“We make some of our greatest gains when we see old things in new ways.”

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The Married Man

There was a time when the average American male graduated from school, got married, bought a house and started a family. This was par for the course as little as just a few generations ago. Ask your grandparents about the old days and you’ll find that they lead significantly different lives back then. A single male breadwinner was expected to support a wife and just over 2 children plus a family pet. People often characterize that period as a simpler time.

Graduation now takes four years longer with kids going to college and it has become far more expensive. A typical four year baccalaureate starts you out more than $30,000 in debt. Perhaps it’s not so surprising that only 52% of the adult population are married. And the idea of a little house with a picket fence now includes a price tag so high that approximately 40% of the 18 to 34 year olds still live with their parents (that’s a number that’s hard to believe) while the size or the average family has dropped from over two during grandpa’s time to under one today. It’s easy enough to check these numbers on the Internet or just ask Alexa…something else that’s new since the start of the 21st century.

So, has the progress that’s been made since those simpler times been worth it? If you’re focusing on the married male’s lifespan then the answer is a resounding Yes. Married males today live 17 years longer than their single male friends and most of the credit for this increased longevity goes to their wives. Married men have a better diet and get more exercise. They also smoke less and are less apt to drink to excess. Notice I said ‘to excess’ because a couple of drinks a day seem to carry a health benefit that’s probably due to their calming, tranquilizing effect. Single guys are more prone to risky behavior and they make fewer trips to the doctor and pay less attention to their overall health. Married men have a more active social life, report lower levels of depression and enjoy a happier retirement during those 17 extra years of life.

Alas, not all wives are created equal. Men with highly educated partners enjoy the most benefits. These usually include larger household incomes and smaller families. But there’s a flip-side to a loving couple and that’s the stressful relationship. In men, this can equate to a 34% higher risk of a heart attack.

Look At It This Way

If you’re a male reading this and you finally have all your ducks in a row, you can consider yourself fortunate. Unless, you’re ripe for a midlife crisis. In that case, you have one more hurdle to face. A male at that age is pretty well off yet he senses his masculine spirit fading and feels he should do something about it. Not too long ago, I went down for breakfast at a hotel where I was staying. At an adjacent table I saw a man with his nose in a newspaper and his wife looking out the window. They exchange not one word the whole time I was there. It’s been said that even the most passionate lovers become good friends after three years. There’s nothing wrong with that… as having a good friend is a good thing but at that time in life… middle aged men tend not to see it that way.

My only advise: Stay calm and carry on. Remember that stressful relationships are related to 34% higher risk of a heart attack.

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