Getting married at the ‘right time’ has health benefits: study

File photo of wedding rings.
File photo of wedding rings. FILE Rick Rowell/ABC via Getty Images

Marrying later than or at the same time as peers is best for lasting happiness.

That’s according to a report by Matt Johnson, a researcher in Family Ecology at the University of Alberta.

The study looked at the timing of when people got married relative to their peers.

“I was drawing from data we started back in 1985, with a sample of Edmonton high school seniors,” said Johnson. “What is on time? For this sample it was age 25 for women or age 28 for men.”

The research team kept up with the group for 30 years.

“Those people who married on time — or even [those] who married late — they had better wellbeing in midlife,” said Johnson. “They had fewer symptoms of depression in comparison to those who married early.”
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So why is early marriage a risk factor?

“Our argument is that early marriage in this sample also coincided with making early transitions in other areas,” said Johnson. “Transitioning out of school, having kids quicker, settling into a job sooner in life.”

Johnson’s research suggests putting marriage before other traditional steps in life causes some divide.

“I didn’t want this job. I wanted to go further in school, I wanted to try to get this other career. It takes its toll later on,” said Johnson. “All of those transitions are then in tandem as the years go by, [so] you may not be as happy with your life.”

Family pressure and social acceptance can also play into what is defined as the correct time to get married.

“[If you’re getting married] when you’re ‘supposed to’ from a societal norm perspective — then your family supports it, your friends support it, and everybody gets on board. That has benefits that last into the future.”
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Delaying marriage by a few years has its own benefits.

“It allows you to pursue more education opportunities and establish yourself in other areas that set you up better for the long-term.”

Regardless of when a person gets married, the research found a pattern.

“We [found on average] getting married, regardless of when it happened, was linked with better wellbeing,” said Johnson. “People were happier [in comparison] to those who didn’t.”

But that doesn’t mean getting married is the key to a happy life.

“Research always speaks in averages. There are plenty of married people who are — quite frankly — miserable, and plenty of single people who are very happy with their lives.”