Marriage and mental health among young adults

J Health Soc Behav. 2012 Mar;53(1):67-83. doi: 10.1177/0022146511419206. Epub 2012 Feb 9.


Marriage is widely thought to confer mental health benefits, but little is known about how this apparent benefit may vary across the life course. Early marriage, which is nonnormative, could have no, or even negative, mental health consequences for young adults. Using survey data from waves 1 and 3 of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (n = 11,695), I find that married young adults exhibit levels of psychological distress that are similar to those of young adults in any kind of romantic relationship. Married and engaged young adults also report lower frequency of drunkenness than those who are not in a romantic relationship. Married young adults, especially those who first married at ages 22 to 26, report higher life satisfaction than those in other type of romantic relationships,those in no romantic relationship, and those who married prior to age 22. Explanations for these findings are examined, and their implications are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Female
  • Happiness*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology*
  • Marriage / statistics & numerical data
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Psychological Theory
  • Psychometrics
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult