Marriage and Mental Health among Young Adults

Jeremy E. Uecker, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Marriage is widely thought to confer mental health benefits, but little is known about how this association may vary across the life course. Early marriage--which is related to a number of suboptimal outcomes like marital instability, lower educational attainment and earnings, and poorer physical health--could have negative mental health consequences for young adults. Using data from Waves 1 and 3 of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, I find that young adults who had married exhibited relatively good mental health. Their levels of psychological distress are similar to other young adults, their life satisfaction exceeds that of others, and they are less likely to get drunk frequently than those who are not engaged to be married. Remarkably, even those who married as teenagers did not exhibit poorer mental health than other young adults. Much of this influence is attributable to heightened relationship stability among the ever-married.

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Presented in Poster Session 2