Okay, so it's official: being married makes a man healthier -- at least according to a new study, this one revealing that husbands have stronger bones than single guys.
Not that this comes as a surprise to married women -- we've been telling our husbands for years that marriage has made them better in all ways. But I'd like to add my own observation to this new study by revealing one other thing that makes husbands healthier: their wives.
Very few men pay attention to getting regular physicals. I haven't taken a national poll on this, but experience has taught me that men are macho when it comes to going to the doctor. They put it off, insisting that their wives needn't worry, and that they're just fine, thank you. It's the same way many men are when they're behind the wheel of the car and lost -- women will quickly ask someone for directions; men will put it off as long as possible.
In my marriage I've learned that I have to stay on top of Phil's health almost as diligently as I stay on top of my own: pushing him to get a yearly physical, chest x-ray, EKG and the dreaded colonoscopy. Our family doctor calls this "the Woman's Disease," explaining that maintaining a man's health regimen tends to be a job many wives take on. And our doc isn't the only one who's noticed this.
"I've seen this scenario played out many times in my years of working in clinical medicine," writes physician's assistant Sharon Bahrych on KevinMD.com." It's typically the man who refuses to be seen by a physician or admit that he's ill and needs help. Instead, it's the wife or significant other who drags him into the clinic to be seen."
According to this new bone study, published in the journal Osteoporosis International, men in stable marriages (or otherwise long-term relationships) have stronger bones than men who have never been married. Recruiting participants between the ages of 25 and 75, researchers peered into the men's bodies, using bone-density scanners, and discovered a positive correlation between marriage and bone health in the spine. (Vitamin D, twice a day, has long been part of women's routines for stronger bones; and I'm sure they've passed that wisdom on to their spouses.)
This bone report follows on the heels of a host of other studies that reveal the health benefits of marriage, including lower blood pressure, decreased levels of stress hormones, healthier hearts and even a lower risk of cancer-related mortality. Those regular check ups undoubtedly have something to do with these better numbers.
Luckily, being vigilant about health comes naturally to me. I come from a family of health warriors (and worriers!), so no one needs to remind us to call the doctor. In fact, my brother Tony has famously turned fretting about his health into an art form. Ironically, he married a nurse; and at their wedding, his best man toasted: "Here's to Tony and Annie -- we're all so happy you found each other. A hypochondriac and a nurse -- it's the perfect marriage." (BTW, they're perfect for each other in many ways!)
So during this month of hearts and flowers, give your husband (or significant other) a real valentine, and urge him to see his doctor, even if it's only for a routine check-up. In the meantime, take a look at this slide show to see the many ways your marriage has made you and your spouse a happier, healthier couple.