Married men are more likely to visit the doctor and get recommended health screenings than unmarried men who live with their significant others, according to a new report.
In 2011 and 2012, 76 percent of married men ages 18 to 64 said they had a health care visit in the last year, the report found. By contrast, 60 percent of unmarried men who lived with their partners (known as cohabiting), and 65 percent of other unmarried men, included those who were widowed, divorced or never married, reported health care visits, the study showed.
The findings were true regardless of age. Although younger men were less likely than older men to visit the doctor, younger men who were married were more likely than their cohabiting counterparts to have had a health care visit in the past year, according to the report, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, insurance affected the link between marriage and getting health care; married men were more likely than cohabiting men to visit the doctor, but only when both groups the researchers looked at were insured. (Among uninsured men, there was no link between marital status and the likelihood of visiting the doctor in the past year.)
Married men were also more likely than cohabiting and other unmarried men to receive recommended health screenings, such as diabetes screening and blood pressure and cholesterol checks.
Experts say the findings are not surprising. "They are consistent with other research showing that married individuals, especially married men, enjoy greater health benefits than their cohabiting counterparts," said Susan Brown, a professor of sociology at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, who was not involved with the study. Previous research has found that married men live longer and have fewer symptomsof depression than cohabiting men, Brown said.
Support from spouses also has an effect. Studies have found that wives are good at encouraging their husbands to go to the doctor, Brown said.
It's important to note that such encouragement may happen more often in marriages than among cohabiting couples simply because that type of "nagging" takes longer to develop in relationships, said Kelly Musick, an associate professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell University's College of Human Ecology. Cohabitors are more likely to be in newer relationships, compared to married couples. "Cohabitation tends to be relatively short term — cohabitors break up, or move into marriage relatively quickly," she said.
Finally, married men may also feel obligated to stay healthy to provide for their families, the researchers said. Having a spouse may indirectly "[evoke] in men a sense of economic and social obligation to the family," the researchers, from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, wrote in the report.