Among depressed individuals, the psychological benefits of marriage appear to continue even if the quality of the marriage is suspect.
The finding was a surprise to researchers who hypothesized that people who are depressed would have worse marital quality and would therefore experience fewer benefits from marriage.
The study is published in the June issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.
Researchers Adrianne Frech and Kristi Williams, Ph.D. from Ohio State University speculate that marriage might provide a level of companionship that depressed singles typically lack.
Frech’s team used data from the National Survey of Families and Households. The study included 3,066 unmarried people aged 55 years and under. To identify depressed individuals, researchers used a 12-item test for depression and considered respondents depressed if they scored 23 or more points on the test.
After a follow-up period of five years, researchers identified people who married during the period, asked about the quality of their marriages and how their psychological well-being changed. The study excluded participants who married but ended up divorcing before the five-year follow-up.
Researchers found that the participants who married within the five-year period scored an average of about 3.5 points lower on the depression test than those who remained single.
Of all the depressed participants, those who got married scored an average 7.5 points lower on the mood scale than the people who remained single. The non-depressed experienced a smaller change in their psychological well-being if they got married.
Results from the study confirmed that depressed people report less marital happiness and more marital conflict. Nevertheless, being married enhanced their mood. Previous studies also suggest that depressed people benefit from stable social support more than the non-depressed.
Robin Simon, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology from Florida State University in Tallahassee, agrees that this is likely.
“The study’s findings make perfect sense to me. One symptom of depression is loneliness and lack of companionship. I am not surprised that marriage would supply a psychological boost for the previously depressed,” she said.
Source: Health Behavior News Service