Marriage May Hold Greater Benefits to Depressed
> 8/17/2006 1:01:55 PM

The positive benefits of marriage have been studied by psychologists and sociologists for some time, but now new research indicates that those suffering from depression may actually benefit more than their non-depressed counterparts. It's unlikely that many doctors will be prescribing a stroll down the aisle as a depression treatment anytime soon, but further research could illuminate how an intimate relationship might help in the battle against depression.

Working at Ohio State University, sociologists Adrianne Frech and Kristi Williams came across these somewhat surprising results while pouring over statistics from the National Survey of Families and Households. The OSU press release detailed much of their findings, which the pair presented at a meeting of the American Sociological Association.

Frech said they were surprised that depressed people in this study benefited the most from marriage.

“We actually found the opposite of what we expected,” Frech said. “We thought depressed people would be less likely to benefit from marriage because the depression of one spouse can put a strain on the marriage and undermine marital quality.”

Indeed, the study confirmed Williams' previous research that found levels of marital quality and conflict were key in determining depression levels in individuals after marriage. As would be expected, people who report marriages that are high in quality and low in conflict are less likely to be depressed.

There could be a couple of explanations for the trends that they discovered, Williams and Frech said. Whereas people who are generally happy can only benefit so much from getting married, the intimacy and social support of a caring partner helped those suffering from depression make great strides. The levels of satisfaction and ease of symptoms varied over the life of the marriage, but the bottom line was that depressed individuals had a longer road to travel to happiness than those who were not depressed.

This data provides a stronger understanding of the benefits of marriage, not only for those who are depressed, but the general public as well. Therapists as well as those afflicted with depression should be encouraged that behavioral therapies that hope to help depression sufferers move forward with their lives can receive a realistic boost from getting into a long-term relationship. Obviously, simply getting married isn't going to make all symptoms of depression magically disappear, but being in a stable relationship and facing the depression with the support of a spouse can very believably have extremely positive effects.

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