DePaulo criticizes research of the sort we reported in the Nurses’ Health Study for not distinguishing between the transition from singlehood to marriage, versus from marriage to divorce. And indeed, the Nurses’ Health Study participants were married upon study entry so that the estimate reported above is more reflective of the adverse impact of divorce compared to marriage. DePaulo argues that if you marry, you are also more likely to divorce. That is, of course, true: the effects of continuous marriage on health are going to be more protective than marriage followed by divorce.
But DePaulo seems to suggest that the right way to avoid divorce is to not marry. A more sensible solution would be to develop support resources to work through marital difficulties, when appropriate. Marital counseling, maintaining commitment, online marriage support resources,19 and the passage of time can pay off.16 One study indicated that among those who were married and rated their marriage as “very unhappy” but stayed married, 77% said that five years later the same marriage was either “very happy” or “quite happy.”
Beyond the question of divorce, however, a vast literature now exists (in addition to the Switzerland study) on the objective health effects of marriage,including studies that have examined never-married populations: these studies find similar protective effects of marriage.