Does marriage make us healthier? Inter-country comparative evidence from China, Japan, and Korea

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Objectives: This study focuses on East Asian countries and investigates the difference in the marriage premium on the health-marriage protection effect (MPE) between younger and older generations and the intra-couple education concordance effect (ECE) on the health of married individuals. This study used inter-country comparative data from China, Japan, and Korea. Methods: This study focused on individuals (n = 7,938) in China, Japan, and Korea who were sampled from the 2010 East Asian Social Survey. To investigate MPE and ECE, four health indicators were utilized: a physical and mental components summary (PCS and MCS), self-rated health status (Dself), and happiness level (Dhappy). Ordinary least squares regression was conducted by country- and gender-specific subsamples. Results: We found that the MPE on PCS, MCS, and Dself was more significant for the older generation than for the younger generation in both China and Japan, whereas the results were inconclusive in Korea. With regard to the ECE on happiness (Dhappy), for both men and women, couples tend to be happier when both the husband and the wife are well educated ("higher balanced marriage") compared to couples with a lower level of educational achievement ("lower balanced marriage"). Significant benefits from a "higher balanced marriage" on MCS and Dself were observed for women only. In contrast, no statistically significant differences in health status were observed between "higher balanced marriage" couples and couples with different levels of educational achievements ("upward marriage" or "downward marriage"). Conclusions: This study found that (1) the MPE was more significant for the older generation, and (2) the health gap, particularly the happiness gap, between higher- and lower-balanced married couples was significant. The inter-country comparative findings are useful to explain how the role of marriage (and therefore of family) on health has been diluted due to the progress of industrialization and modernization.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0148990
JournalPloS one
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Feb

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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