With the fast pace of modern life, juggling marriage and family life can be stressful. Even still, a new study has found that married people are less stressed than those who are single, divorced or widowed. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that married individuals have lower levels of cortisol, known as the stress hormone, than those who never married or were previously married. For the study, the researchers collected saliva samples from 572 healthy adults aged 21-55 over three non-consecutive days. Numerous samples were taken during each 24-hour period and tested for cortisol. Results showed that married participants had lower cortisol levels than the never married or previously married people across the three day period. They also compared each person's daily cortisol rhythm, as typically cortisol levels peak when a person wakes up then go down throughout the day. Married individuals showed a faster decline, which has been linked to lower chances of heart disease, and longer survival among cancer patients. "It's is exciting to discover a physiological pathway that may explain how relationships influence health and disease," said Ph.D. student Brian Chin, adding that the findings support the belief that unmarried people face more psychological stress than married individuals. Prolonged stress is linked to high levels of cortisol, which is known to hinder the body's ability to regulate inflammation and, as a result, promotes the development and progression of many diseases. "These data provide important insight into the way in which our intimate social relationships can get under the skin to influence our health," said laboratory director and co-author Sheldon Cohen. The full study is published in journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.
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