Another ‘Side Effect’ of Marriage — Becoming Biologically Alike

I have never been married (which is a whole another story), but I’m fascinated by some of the impacts being so close to another person for so long can have.

The latest is an article entitled “Being Married for Decades Means That Your Bodies Become Biologically Alike” on the May 26th, 2016 edition of the New York magazine’s “Science of Us” website.  The article begins by noting the superficial similarities, like similar dress and walking in synch.  But apparently it goes much deeper than that.  To quote the article —

“In a study presented at the annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America, University of Michigan researcher Shannon Mejia and her team looked at health indicators from 1,568 married couples across the United States. The couples were separated into two groups: those who had been married for about 20 years, and those who had been married for about 50 years. Overall, Mejia found that the couples had striking similarities in kidney function, total cholesterol, and grip strength.”

This phenomenon has been given the label “couples concordance in health” in psych literature.  There are currently two theories as to why this might be: mate selection, which tends to homogeneity in race, education, and age; or shared experiences, where health is determined by living together.

Mejia and her team found a similarity in the biomarkers beyond the race, education, and age factors they statistically accounted for.  Total cholesterol was the best example.  Their math says that 20 percent of the outcome for total cholesterol is attributable to being a couple.

But counter-intuitively, couples with longer marriages weren’t more similar than those whose marriages were shorter.  Mejia suspects this has to do with the limits of marriage duration. If you waited until you were 45 to wed, for example, your patterns of health are already pretty well established.

This similarity contradicts what Mejia calls the “independence assumption” in this country: your health is thought to be individualistic.  After all, it’s your body, not your partner’s.  But  environments do matter.

Does this mean the wedding vow is also a declaration of interdependence?

The full article can be found at

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *