However, for couples earning more, marriage does not show the same mental health benefits, according to researchers at Georgia State University in the US. The study, published in the journal Social Science Research, also found that people who have never been married and earn more than USD 60,000 a year have fewer symptoms of depression than comparable earning married people.
Researchers examined data from a national study consisting of interviews with 3,617 adults in the US aged 24 to 89 at specific intervals over many years. The survey covers a wide range of sociological, psychological, mental and physical health items.
The researchers analysed responses from never married, married and newly married adults. "We looked at the interrelationships between marriage, income and depression, and what we found is that the benefit of marriage on depression is really for people with average or lower levels of income," said Ben Lennox Kail, an assistant professor at Georgia State.
"Specifically, people who are married and earning less than USD 60,000 a year in total household income experience fewer symptoms of depression," Kail said. "But above that, marriage is not associated with the same kind of reduction in symptoms of depression," he said.
The study, among only a few to investigate whether psychological well-being in marriage varies by socioeconomic status, supports a theory called the marital resource model, which suggests the health benefits of marriage include the pooling of resources, such as finances and social support. "For people who are earning above USD 60,000, they do not get this bump because they already have enough resources," Kail said.
"About 50 per cent of the benefit these households earning less than USD 60,000 per year get from marriage is an increased sense of financial security and self-efficacy, which is probably from the pooling of resources," he said.