Reconceptualizing health lifestyles: The case of marriage

Catherine E. Ross, Terrence D. Hill, John Mirowsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Purpose - Despite mixed evidence, researchers often suggest that married adults tend to live generally healthier lifestyles than their unmarried counterparts. In this chapter, we propose and test a reconceptualization of the health lifestyle that distinguishes between "homebody" risks and "hedonic" risks that may help to make sense of previous findings concerning marriage and health-related behavior. Methodology/approach - Using data from the 2004 Survey of Adults (n = 1,385), we employ ordinary least squares regression to model indices of normative and conventional homebody risks (greater body mass, infrequent exercise, poorer diet, and abstinence from alcohol) and unconventional and potentially dangerous hedonic risks (smoking, heavy drinking, going out to bars, eating out, inadequate sleep, and driving without seatbelts) as a function of marital status. Findings - Our key findings indicate that married adults tend to score higher on homebody risks and lower on hedonic risks than never married adults, net of controls for age, gender, race/ethnicity, citizenship, interview language, education, employment status, household income, and religious involvement. Research limitations/implications - Research limitations include crosssectional data, restricted indicators of health-related behavior, and narrow external validity. Originality/value - Contrary to previous research, we conclude that the lifestyle of married adults is not uniformly healthy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)243-260
Number of pages18
JournalResearch in the Sociology of Health Care
StatePublished - 2016


  • Divorce
  • Health
  • Health behavior
  • Lifestyle
  • Marriage
  • Widowhood

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Nursing (miscellaneous)


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