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Study: Cohabitation provides greater health benefits than marriage

For many decades, Americans have placed a high value on marriage, believing that it is important (if not essential) to the health and happiness of Americans and families. But with the increasing number of couples who are choosing to cohabitate instead of getting married, researcher sought to determine whether our long-held beliefs about the benefits of marriage were accurate. Surprisingly, they found that cohabitation at least as many, if not more positive effects on health and happiness.

The study was conducted through an examination of a nearly 3,000 member sample from the National Survey of Families and Households. Of the 2,737 people studied, about 900 had either married or moved in with a partner during the previous six years. Researchers studied the participants' responses in key areas of well-being, focusing on questions on happiness, health and social ties.

According to researchers, participants experienced a spike in well-bring directly after both marrying and moving in together, which was cited to the traditional "honeymoon period." However, this period was short-lived.

Married participants then experienced a fairly significant decline in happiness and self-esteem, researchers found. While cohabitating couples experienced this to a degree, the drop was not as severe as for married couples. Researchers attributed this to cohabitation's greater allowances for "flexibility, autonomy and personal growth."

If you and your significant other have decided to move in together, it may be in your best interest to create a cohabitation agreement. Similar to a prenuptial agreement, these documents lay out the terms of a property agreement, child custody, and other issues that may arise if you and your partner split.

Source: ScienceDaily, "Does Marriage Really Make People Happier? Study Finds Few Well-Being Advantages to Marriage Over Cohabitation," Jan. 18, 2012

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