Married Adults are Healthiest, New CDC Report Shows

For Release: Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Contact: CDC/NCHS Press Office, (301) 458-4800


Marital Status and Health: United States, 1999-2002. Advance Data, Number 351. 33 pp. (PHS) 2004-1250. [PDF – 620 KB]

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that married adults are healthier than divorced, widowed or never married adults.

The report, “Marital Status and Health: United States, 1999-2002,” was based on interviews with 127,545 adults aged 18 and over as part of the National Health Interview Survey, conducted by CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. The study looked at health status and limitations, health conditions, health related behaviors according to marital status and also by age, race/ethnicity and socioeconomic factors such as education and poverty status.

Among the findings in the report:

  • Nearly 60% of adults are married, 10.4% are separated or divorced, 6.6% are widowed, 19% are never married and 5.7% are living with a partner. Marital status varies greatly among race/ethnic groups: approximately 61 percent of white adults, 58 percent of Hispanic adults, and 38 percent of black adults are married, according to the survey.
  • Married adults are less likely than other adults to be in fair or poor health, and are less likely to suffer from health conditions such as headaches and serious psychological distress.
  • Married adults are less likely be limited in various activities, including work and other activities of daily living.
  • Married adults are less likely to smoke, drink heavily or be physically inactive. However, married men are more likely to be overweight or obese than other men.
  • Adults who live in cohabiting relationships are more likely to have health problems than married adults and more closely resemble divorced and separated adults.
  • The association between marital status and health is most striking in the youngest age group although it persists throughout the age groups studied.

While the results show that married adults are generally in better health than unmarried adults, the reasons for better health status among married adults cannot be determined with cross-sectional data collected in the National Health Interview Survey. The report, “Marital Status and Health: United States, 1999-2002,” is available at the the CDC/NCHS Web site.