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Marital Status and Psychological Well-Being: A Cross-National Comparative Analysis

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image of International Journal of Comparative Sociology
For more content, see Comparative Sociology.

Bernard's thesis that marriage is more beneficial to husbands than to wives is put to a systematic test by using comparative data from several large surveys conducted in Canada and the U. S. Specific hypotheses relating to three aspects of this thesis; namely, global happiness, marital and family hapiness, and psychological distress are examined. Contrary to Bernard's thesis, in the current analysis, married women reported significantly greater happiness than married men. With respect to marital and family happiness, the results were also at variance with those of Bernard's. However, the findings on the mental health component were largely consistent with Bernard's thesis. Married women were found significantly more vulnerable to psychological distress, anxiety and depressive symptoms (as well as physical health problems) than married men. The data also indicated greater use of drugs and pain relievers among women; however, men consumed substantially more alcohol than women. Overall, the results would suggest that marriage is somewhat more health-protective for men than for women. The conditions under which married women showed greater vulnerability to mental illness included lack of social integration, overload of household chores, economic dependency on their husbands, not working in paid jobs, and poor quality of family life. Comparing these findings with the results of the 1960's research cited by Bernard, no significant improvement in women's overal well-being can be observed.


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