“... We should provide the facts about the importance of marriage as a matter of child welfare and economic aspiration. As a society, we have launched highly effective public education campaigns on much less momentous issues, from smoking to recycling... For now, the decline of marriage is our most ignored national crisis...” – Rich Lowry commentary, TIME Magazine, 2012

“Jesus said to them, ‘The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage ...’” – Bible

The week from Feb. 7-14 every year has been designated National Marriage Week. The goal of the organization and the associated activities is to encourage diverse groups to strengthen individual marriages, reduce the divorce rate and build a stronger marriage culture, which in turn helps curtail poverty and benefits children.

There is a growing body of research which suggests that “not being married can be hazardous to your health.” Obviously some of the benefits come from the lifestyles of individuals who choose the married life; nevertheless, there is a direct correlation between these benefits and marriage. Consider the following benefits from a variety of documented studies:

• Compared to married people, the nonmarried … have higher rates of mortality than the married: about 50 percent higher among women and 250 percent higher among men.

• Unmarried (including divorced, widowed and single) people are far more likely to die from all causes, including coronary heart disease, stroke, pneumonia, many kinds of cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, automobile accidents, murder and suicides – all leading causes of death.

• Almost nine out of 10 married men living to age 48 will still be alive at age 65. By contrast, six out of every 10 never-married men alive at 48 will make it to 65. For married women, nine out of 10 alive at age 48 will make it to 65 as compared to about eight out of 10 never-married and divorced women.

• Married men really do settle down, while men who aren’t married voluntarily behave in ways that endanger their own life and health. Take alcohol abuse, for example. Single men drink almost twice as much as married men of the same age.

• Married men and women report less depression, less anxiety and lower levels of other types of psychological distress than do those who are singled, divorced or widowed.

• One survey of 14,000 adults over a 10-year period found that marital status was one of the most important predictors of happiness.

• Divorce is damaging to women’s mental health: divorcing women reported more of an increase in depression, more hostility, more of a decline in self-esteem, less personal growth and less self-acceptance and environmental mastery than divorced men.

• In the short term, cohabiting couples may gain some (though not nearly all) of the emotional benefits of marriage. But over the long haul, it appears that cohabitors may be no better off than singles. People who are cohabiting are less happy generally than the married and are less satisfied with their sex lives. In America, long-term co-habiting relationships are rarer than successful marriages.

• Married families accumulated the most money with a median net worth of $26,000. Remarried families were almost as well off – $22,500, as were single-dad families – $22,930. At the bottom of the heap were both single mothers and cohabiting couples with a median wealth of just $1,000.

• Children living with their mother and her boyfriend are six times more likely to be physically, emotionally or educationally neglected than children living with their married biological parents.

• Children living with their own father and mother do not fare much better if their parents are only cohabiting. A federal study of child abuse found that children living with their cohabiting parents are more than four times more likely to be sexually, physically or emotionally abused than their peers living in a home headed by their married parents.

God’s design works best. Man was not meant to live alone, and neither was woman. Marriage makes people happier.

The Family and Marriage Coalition of Aiken, Inc. (FAMCO) provides resources for you to succeed in your marriage and families. Roger Rollins, executive director of FAMCO, 640-4689, rogerrollins@aikenfamco.com, www.aikenfamco.com.