Mona Charen

Marriage also bestows more emotional well-being. A study by W. Bradford Wilcox and others, "Marriage and Mental Health in Adults and Children," reports that "Married Americans were more than twice as likely as divorced or separated Americans to say they were very happy with life in general. Cohabiting, never-married, and widowed individuals' happiness resembled that of divorced and separated people more than married people."

Married people were also less likely to suffer from depression and other forms of mental anguish: "Married men and women report fewer symptoms of mental illness and psychological distress than do otherwise similar individuals who are not married. Longitudinal research shows that it is not merely that mentally healthy people are more likely to get or stay married. Instead, marriage itself appears to boost mental health. Remaining unmarried or getting divorced seems to result, on average, in a deterioration in mental well-being."

Children of married couples are far healthier mentally and physically than the children of cohabiting, divorced, or never-married couples. Wilcox et al cite one study suggesting that the tripling of the teen suicide rate over the past half-century is closely associated with divorce, while married men are half as likely as single men to kill themselves.

Marriage knits the couple into a kinship network in which interest-free loans, baby-sitting, elder care, and other forms of assistance in hard times are more readily available. Sadly, among those most in need of these added supports -- those with lower levels of education -- marriage is in steep decline. More than 50 percent of new mothers without college degrees are unmarried, compared with only 7 percent of mothers with college diplomas. In fact, among the college-educated, marriage has strengthened over the past several decades, leading to a "marriage gap" that goes a long way toward explaining the slowing of growth in family income over the past generation. Married-couple families have become a rapidly diminishing segment of total families over the past 20 years.

The young adults who move in together imagining that a wedding is too expensive are paying a far higher price than they recognize.


Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
 
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