Study: Married People Have Lower Levels of Stress Hormone Cortisol

A study led by Carnegie Mellon University researchers provides the first biological evidence to explain how marriage impacts health.

Study: Married People Have Lower Levels of Stress Hormone Cortisol

According to Brian Chin et al , married people have lower cortisol levels and steeper slopes than the unmarried ones. Image credit: Olessya.
Carnegie Mellon University Professor Sheldon Cohen and co-authors found that married individuals had lower levels of cortisol than those who never married or were previously married.
These findings, published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology , support the belief that unmarried people face more psychological stress than married individuals.
“It’s is exciting to discover a physiological pathway that may explain how relationships influence health and disease,” said Brian Chin, a Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon University and the study’s first author.
For the study, the researchers examined the association between current marital status and two indices of cortisol — cortisol production and cortisol’s daily rhythm — in a community sample of 572 healthy men and women aged 21–55.
“Participants provided salivary cortisol samples during waking hours on three non-consecutive separate days to calculate diurnal cortisol levels and slopes,” the authors explained.
The results showed that the married participants had lower cortisol levels than the never married or previously married people across the three day period.
The team also compared each person’s daily cortisol rhythm — typically, cortisol levels peak when a person wakes up and decline during the day.
Those who were married showed a faster decline, a pattern that has been associated with less heart disease, and longer survival among cancer patients.
“These data provide important insight into the way in which our intimate social relationships can get under the skin to influence our health,” Prof. Cohen said.