31 August 2004

Women are good for you

You've heard of those daft studies that seem to prove nothing, like "People who drink in bars are more likely to get into bar fights than those who play Scrabble at the retirement home. Well, here's a study that actually seems to prove that it's a good idea for blokes to get hitched.

Here at Health24 we often chuckle over studies conducted into say, why the shower curtain always blows inwards when you're showering.

Then there are those studies that seem to make some sense, like the one done on 20 000 men in Norway over 25 years, that suggests that reasonably educated men with well-educated wives live longer and are happier than their single counterparts. The study found that these men were less likely to smoke or be overweight and had lower blood pressure.

The authors said this was probably because intelligent women tend to be well-informed about healthy lifestyles. They also tended to be better off, so they were more able to afford a healthy lifestyle, and probably had less stress than their poorer counterparts. A previous study by the same team had found that single men were likely to die at a younger age than married ones.

Bad research
Cynical misogynists out there may be thinking that the study was conducted among a tiny sample of happily married people, and yes, there are examples of bad research. A good example is the report that "Half the women in the Boston area who joined Alcoholics Anonymous weren't alcoholics", when in fact the study had sampled just 25 people.

But no. The Norwegian study was done on 20 000 people. And here's another big one, this time of nearly 11 000 people, taken from the 1996 mental health survey in Australia. It seems to debunk the findings of a 1970s Australian study, that marriage was good for men but bad for women.

The new study finds that one in eight married people has severely elevated stress levels, while one in four single people reported feeling miserable when single. Married women with children were the least likely to suffer mental health problems.

There's now a vigorous debate about whether the 1970s study was completely flawed, or whether the lot of married women has improved in the last 30 years. One reason cited is that women have greater equality now than in the ‘70s, when their role was much in flux in western society.

But before you start looking for a wife as a glorified nanny, counsellor and masseuse, remember that most women, formally educated or simply streetwise, Australian or not, know a slob when they see one. – (William Smook)


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