Married people have lower levels of a key stress hormone than do their unmarried peers, according to a new study.
The research appears to confirm the widely held belief that marriage bestows a sense of security, while the single life leaves one vulnerable to stress, with no one to share it with.
A research team at Carnegie Mellon University in the U.S. found that married individuals have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than those who have never married or were previously married.
The researchers took saliva samples from some 570 healthy adults aged between 21 and 55 over a three-day period, and tested their cortisol levels. They found that the level of cortisol in married people was not only lower than in singles, but also dropped faster.
Released in the brain in response to stress, cortisol helps people focus by providing the brain with glucose. Excessive cortisol release can adversely affect the immune system. High levels of the stress hormone over an extended period have been linked to increased cancer risk.
The research team said a person's cortisol level rises under competitive conditions and falls in cooperative environments. As marriage is a cooperative relationship, married people tend to have lower levels of the hormone and are therefore less stressed, it added.
The findings were published in the latest issue of Psychoneuroendocrinology.