Why Marriage Matters 8

(Taken from “Twenty One Reasons why Marriage Matters,” by the National Marriage Coalition, found at www.marriage.org.au)

Mental Health and Emotional Well-Being

15. Children whose parents divorce have higher rates of psychological distress and mental illness.

Divorce typically causes children considerable emotional distress and increases the risk of serious mental illness.These mental health risks do not dissipate soon after the divorce. Instead, children of divorce remain at higher risk for depression and other mental illness, in part because of reduced education attainment, increased risk of divorce, marital problems, and economic hardship.The psy­chological effects of divorce appear to differ, depending on the level of conflict between parents. When marital conflict is high and sustained, children benefit psycho­logically from divorce. While more research is needed, the majority of divorces appear to be taking place among low-conflict spouses.

Divorce typically causes children considerable emotional distress and increases the risk of serious mental illness.


16. Divorce appears significantly to increase the risk of suicide.

High rates of family fragmentation are associated with an increased risk of suicide among both adults and adoles­cents.Divorced men and women are more than twice as likely as their married counterparts to attempt suicide.Although women have lower rates of suicide overall, mar­ried women were also substantially less likely to commit suicide than were divorced, widowed, or never-married women.

In the last half-century, suicide rates among teens and young adults have tripled. The single “most im­portant explanatory variable,” according to one new study, “is the increased share of youths living in homes with a divorced parent.” The effect, note the researchers, “is large,” explaining “as much as two-thirds of the increase in youth suicides” over time.

In Australia, a recent study found that “never-mar­ried men had [suicide] mortality levels 89-90% higher than the standard rates and married men 43-25% below the standard rates, while divorced and widowed men also had elevated [suicide] mortality levels.” Similar trends were found among women as well.Other research has found that suicide rates among men and women in Australia were three times higher than among married people.

Figures from the ABS have shown that divorced males aged between 35 and 44 are the most likely to take their own life in Australia, while married people are the least likely to suicide.And the Australian Insti­tute of Health and Welfare study of 1994 found that never married and previously married people had three times the suicide rates of married people.
More recent ABS figures point in the same direction. In the 1995-1997 period, married people (9 per 100,000 persons) were less likely to die from suicide than those who were never married (22), widowed (13) or divorced (26 per 100,000 persons).

And a recent study recorded in the Australian Medical Journal by Dr Chris Cantor of Griffith University found that separated males are six times more likely to commit suicide than married men. And a more recent study by the Institute of Health and Welfare found that divorced men are at least three times as likely to commit suicide as any other group.


17. Married mothers have lower rates of depression than do single or cohabiting mothers.

The absence of marriage is a serious risk factor for ma­ternal depression. Married mothers have lower rates of depression than do single or co-habiting mothers.One study of 2,300 urban adults found that, among parents of preschoolers, the risk of depression was substantially greater for unmarried as compared to married mothers.

Marriage protects even older teen mothers from the risk of depression. In one nationally representative sample of 18 and 19 year old mothers, 41 percent of single white mothers having their first child reported high levels of depressive symptoms, compared to 28 percent of married white teen mothers in this age group.

Longitudinal studies following young adults as they marry, divorce, and remain single indicate that marriage boosts mental and emotional well-being for both men and women.We focus on maternal depression because it is both a serious mental health problem for women and a serious risk factor for children.Not only are single mothers more likely to be depressed, the con­sequences of maternal depression for child well-being are greater in single-parent families, probably because single parents have less support and because children in disrupted families have less access to their (non depressed) other parent.

Australian research shows that in terms of mental health, “never-married men suffer more from not being married than never-married women. But in all other categories women show a higher level of benefit from marriage than men. Separated, widowed, and divorced men were 55 percent above the male average in rates of mental illness while the separated/widowed and divorced category of women had rates 67 percent above the women’s average.”

The 1994 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare study found that married people are three times happier than previously married people, and twice as happy as never married people.

More recent Australian data reveal the same findings. An Australian Unity Wellbeing Index released in July 2002 found that married people were those with the most happiness and greatest sense of well-being. Married people scored 77.7 per cent on the personal well-being test com­pared to 65.1 per cent for those who were separated.

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