The "Cleaning Up" Effect of Marriage on Health-Risk Behaviors: The Role of Marital and Spousal Factors
Seamon, Matthew Patrick
A large body of literature has established a clear link between marriage and health. Despite this wealth of research, surprisingly few studies have attempted to explore the exact mechanisms behind this marriage-health connection. Previous research has focused solely on changes in marital status while failing to consider factors like the quality of the marriage or the characteristics of the spouse. This paper utilizes longitudinal data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to isolate the effect of marriage on the health-risk behaviors of binge drinking and marijuana use, and then assess the impact of marital and spousal factors on this "marriage effect." The results also show that marital quality has a significant impact on health behaviors. Higher self-assessed measures of marital quality are generally associated with lower rates of both binge drinking and marijuana use. The effect of spousal characteristics seems less significant. These results should provide a deeper understanding of the mechanisms behind the effects of marriage on health and help policymakers determine the appropriate policy response as the norms surrounding marriage continue to shift and evolve.
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