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Men may be more reluctant to marry, despite benefits they gain

Men may get the biggest benefits from marriage, but they are often the slowest to warm to the idea of matrimony, according to an article on the Family Studies blog.

"Both men and women benefit from marriage, but men seem to benefit more overall. In addition to being happier and healthier than bachelors, married men earn more money and live longer. And men can reap such benefits even from mediocre marriages, while for women, the benefits of marriage are more strongly linked to marital quality," writes Scott M. Stanley, senior fellow at the Institute for Family Studies and research professor and co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver.

Interestingly, he notes, when surveyed, men are slightly more likely to endorse the idea of marriage than are women.

"I believe that men resist marriage more than women primarily because they believe marriage requires a substantial increase in their behavioral commitment — and they don’t always feel ready for that transition," he adds.

Kathleen Blanchard connected some of the research dots about marriage's health impacts on men for an article on Askmen.com: "As early as 1858, William Farr, a British epidemiologist, identified the risk of dying among unmarried men. Farr studied records of medical statistics to find the link.

"Current studies support the role of marriage as a contributor to better health — but it’s also important to note that the relationship dynamic is what matters the most," she wrote. "Fun and friendship that comes from a happy relationship can undoubtedly promote a longer and healthier life. Men with lower stress hormones are healthier, live longer and they look better too ."

In Men's Health, Ann Maltby says marriage will not only improve a guy's health but increase his pay, keep him out of trouble and speed up his next promotion.

Stanley writes that perspectives change when marriage is part of the discussion. "Men begin to see themselves as fathers, providers and protectors when they transition into marriage."

Researchers at Brigham Young University found that how happy a couple is matters a great deal to how great the health benefits are. That study was published in the Journal of Marriage and Family.

"The BYU study is the latest one to emphasize the quality of marriage and find that a happy marriage bestows health benefits on its members, while conflict and hostility lead to poorer health. The impact is so important, in fact, that (the researchers) believe health insurance should cover the cost of marriage counseling if it's needed to strengthen a union," according to an earlier Deseret News report.

People happy in their marriages typically support each other. "They probably encourage each other to be healthy, to go to the doctor, to take multivitamins and that kind of support," Rick Miller, a professor in the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University, told the Deseret News. "We found not only an absence of negative stuff, but the presence of good stuff in a positive, supportive, vibrant marriage."

Among those with low incomes, barriers to marriage and attitudes may be different. Low-income women in particular seem reluctant to wed. As Kathryn Edin, now at Harvard, and Joanna M. Reed, now at University of California Berkeley, noted in a study published in 2005 in the journal Marriage and Child Wellbeing, many are opting to have children outside of wedlock and perhaps even cohabit, but not necessarily tie the knot.

Among social barriers they cite are "marital aspirations" that are "less concrete" than in the past, while marital expectations are still high, different attitudes about childbearing and an aversion to divorce. Economic barriers include low male earnings, growth in women's real earnings and their potential to earn, among others. Edin told the Deseret News that low-income women may not view a particular partner as marriage material.

Email: lois@deseretnews.com, Twitter: Loisco