Is Your Relationship Making You Healthier?
A Rutgers University researcher is looking for more men in same-sex relationships before her wellness experiment concludes. Participating couples can earn $100.
In 15 years of studying couples health, Charlotte Markey has been most interested in learning how long-term romantic relationships influence health behaviors—particularly, eating and body image.
For heterosexual couples, the news is good. They’re likelier to go to the doctor more regularly, get needed vaccinations and do less smoking and drinking.
Men in committed relationships live longer, Markey said, and show lower rates of cardiovascular disease. They are also likelier than their single counterparts to eat breakfast, be physically active and go to physician well visits.
Women receive similar benefits, but to not as great a degree, she says.
“It’s a sort of basic part of health research, looking at where your health habits come from,” she said. “The more questions you ask, the more you realize you don’t know.”
Obesity rates depend on more than genetics
But Markey, who is the Graduate Director of the Rutgers-Camden Department of Psychology, also discovered that most studies on the health effects of long-term relationships don't have data on same-sex couples.
She had found a niche.
Prior to her research, Markey said "there’s been very, very little work...looking at eating behaviors, body image, dieting concerns, in the context of relationships.”
Understanding weight management behaviors is really important because “obesity and overweight rates in our country…simply cannot be explained in terms of genetics," she said.
“This is an environmental issue, and the most interesting part of the environment is our romantic partners,” Markey said.
Scientific and applied value
As of Nov. 19, Markey was still in the market for five more male couples to complete her research.
“Recruiting lesbians was easy,” Markey said; "men, we are dragging them in here.
"The level of exclusivity is different and the level of commitment seems to be different," she said. "It’s something we’ll have data about very soon.”
The study pays couples $100 for about two hours of participation. The research, which is not focused on sexual behavior, requires an hour of filling out surveys, a discussion about health goals, and then a few biometric measurements.
Markey said her research has scientific as well as applied value. In helping people understand their relationships better and what makes them work, she hopes her observations will help replace some anecdotal relationship advice with research.
“I think everyone wants to know what makes relationships work and everyone thinks they’re a relationship guru,” she said.
“We are scientists, and we are objective, and we use measures and methods that are respected across the scientific community."
Want to participate in the study? Here's a link to Markey's pre-screening survey.