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June 04, 2007

Depressed People Have More to Gain from Getting Married


Marriage provides greater psychological benefits to depressed people versus people who were not depressed before they walked down the aisle, a new study reveals. This remains true even though marriage quality is poorer for depressed individuals.

Sociologists Adrienne Frech and Kristi Williams, from Ohio State University-Columbus, co-wrote the study. It appears in the June issue of the American Sociological Association's Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

“Based on previous research, we hypothesized that people who are depressed would have worse marital quality and would therefore experience fewer benefits from marriage,” Frech said. “But that is not what we found.”

The researchers speculated that marriage may 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 never-married, divorced or widowed individuals under age 55. To identify depressed individuals, researchers used a 12-item test for depression. Respondents were considered depressed if they scored 23 or more points on the test.

After a follow-up period of five years, researchers identified people who got married, 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 all 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 nondepressed 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 suggest that depressed people benefit from stable social support more than the nondepressed.

Robin Simon, an 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.

A copy of the study can be found here.

For more information contact the American Sociological Association. Contact Sujata Sinha, Media Relations Officer at (202) 247-9871or ssinha@asanet.org or Health Behavior News Service: Lisa Esposito at (202) 387-2829 or hbns-editor@cfah.org

The Journal of Health and Social Behavior is the quarterly journal of
the American Sociological Association.

About the American Sociological Association
The American Sociological Association (www.asanet.org), founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society.