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结婚有益健康?恐怕未必

更新时间:2017-5-26 18:35:45 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Get Married, Get Healthy? Maybe Not
结婚有益健康?恐怕未必

In a nation as divided and contentious as our own, it is rare to find a belief we all share. But trust in the transformative power of marriage is close to universal — and it has endured for decades. This isn’t just a matter of faith, we’ve been assured. It’s science. Research is said to have established what our fairy tales promised: Marry and you will live happily ever after. And you will be healthier, too.

在一个和我们自己一样充满分歧与争议的国家,很难找到一种共同的信仰。但大家几乎普遍相信,婚姻具有改造能力,而且这种观念已经持续了几十年。我们深信,这不只是一种信念,而是科学。据说,研究已经证明了童话故事的预言:结婚,从此你将过上幸福的生活。而且,你还会更健康。

A new study challenges the claim that people who marry get healthier. In “The Ambiguous Link Between Marriage and Health,” recently published online in the journal Social Forces, the sociologist Matthijs Kalmijn reported findings from the Swiss Household Panel, a 16-year survey of a nationally representative sample of more than 11,000 Swiss adults. Every year, participants were asked one set of questions about their overall health and another about their illnesses.

一项新研究动摇了结婚有益健康的说法。前不久,《社会力量》季刊(Social Forces)网站发表了社会学家马泰斯·卡尔敏(Matthijs Kalmijn)的论文《婚姻与健康的模糊关联》(The Ambiguous Link Between Marriage and Health)。卡尔敏在文中报告了瑞士家庭研究小组(Swiss Household Panel)的发现。该小组用时16年对具有全国代表性的1.1万多名瑞士成人进行了调查。参与者每年要回答一套关于自己整体健康状况的问卷,以及另一套关于疾病的问卷。

If marriage makes people healthier, then people who marry should report better overall health and less illness than when they were single. If the purported benefits of marriage are cumulative, then people should get even healthier over the course of their marriages.

如果婚姻有益健康,那么,人们婚后报告的整体健康状况应该好于单身时,疾病应该少于单身时。如果婚姻所谓的益处具有累积效应,那么,人们应该在婚姻过程中变得更加健康。

That’s not what happened. People who married reported slightly worse health than they had when they were single. Over time, their health did not improve — it tended to deteriorate, even after taking into account changes in health as people age. On the measures of illness, marriage made no difference at all. People who married did not become any more or less ill than they were when they were single, and their level of illness did not change over the course of their marriage.

但事实并非如此。人们婚后报告的健康状况比单身时更差了一点。随着时间的推移,他们的健康状况没有改善,而是往往在恶化——即使将衰老引起的健康状况变化考虑在内。在疾病方面,婚姻根本没有产生任何影响。与单身时相比,婚后人们所患的疾病并没有增加或减少,他们的疾病水平也没有随着婚姻的延续而发生变化。

Because of its size, duration and methodological sophistication, the new study is perhaps the most definitive research ever conducted on the health implications of marriage. But our faith in the promised benefits of marriage should have been shaken long ago.

鉴于这项新研究的规模、持续时长以及研究方法的精密性,它可能是关于婚姻对健康的影响方面最可靠的研究。不过,我们对婚姻潜在益处的信念很久之前就应该动摇了。

Studies of happiness, relationship satisfaction and life satisfaction in which the same people are followed for years have been piling up for over a decade. A review of 18 of them in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2012 concluded that well-being does not typically improve when people marry. At best, newlyweds enjoy a brief “honeymoon effect” in which they feel a bit more satisfied with their lives at first, but then their satisfaction declines, and they end up feeling as satisfied or dissatisfied as they were when they were single.

十多年来,出现了很多关于幸福、对夫妻关系以及对生活满意程度的调查。这些调查对同一批人进行了数年的追踪记录。2012年发表在《个性与社会心理学杂志》(Journal of Personality and Social Psychology)上的一项对18项此类调查的回顾性研究表明,婚后,人们的健康状况并不会改善。最多只是新婚者会享受短暂的“蜜月效应”,刚开始对自己的生活感觉更满意了一点,但之后,他们的幸福感会慢慢下降,最终对生活的满意程度与单身时没有差异。

The participants in the Swiss study reported their life satisfaction every year, and Professor Kalmijn found that people who married did become a little more satisfied. Over time, their satisfaction eroded, though much more slowly than in most previous studies of marriage. Dr. Kalmijn also examined the implications of divorce and found that people who divorced became significantly less satisfied with their lives. In fact, the negative implications of divorce for life satisfaction were more than three times greater than the positive implications of marrying.

瑞士的这项研究的参与者每年都要报告自己对生活的满意程度。卡尔敏发现,人们刚结婚时,的确会对生活更满意一点。但随着时间的推移,他们的满意程度开始降低,虽然降低的速度比之前大多数关于婚姻的研究中所报告的速度要慢得多。卡尔敏还研究了离婚的影响,发现人们在离婚后对生活的满意程度大幅下降。实际上,离婚对生活满意程度的负面影响是结婚所产生的正面影响的三倍多。

That’s important. It helps explain why so many of us have been so sure for so long that marriage makes people happier and healthier. In the typical study, only people who are currently married are included in the married group. Then, if the currently married people do better than people who are not married, single people are told that if they get married, they will do better, too. But many people who marry — probably more than 40 percent — divorce and end up less happy than when they were single. A better way to assess the likely implications of marriage is to compare everyone who ever married to people who never married. Very few studies ever do that.

这一点很重要。它可以帮助解释为什么这么久以来,我们这么多人深信,婚姻让人更幸福、更健康。在典型的调查中,只有那些目前处于婚姻状态的人被归入已婚人士群体。然后,如果目前处于婚姻状态的人比处于非婚状态的人过得更好,那么,单身人士就被告知,如果他们结婚,他们也会过得更好。但是,很多结了婚的人——很可能超过40%——会离婚,最终比单身时更不快乐。评估婚姻可能产生的影响的更好方式,是把结过婚的人与从未结过婚的人进行比较。可是很少有研究这样做。

Imagine that a pharmaceutical company, in testing a new drug, found that 40 percent of the people on the drug refused to keep taking it. Then imagine that the company simply ignored those people, or included them with the people who never took the drug. They might then find that people currently on the drug are doing better than people not on the drug. But would you take a drug based on that argument?

假设一家医药公司在测试新药,发现40%服用该药的人拒绝继续服用。再假设这家公司忽略这些人,或者把他们归入从未服药的人群。然后他们可能发现,目前正在服药的人的情况比不服药的人更好。但你会基于这种论述而选用这种药物吗?

Our belief in the benefits of marriage, though, was never based solely on science, so it is unlikely to be undermined by even the most compelling research. The way we think about marriage adds up to an ideology, a worldview in which we have become deeply invested. What is on offer is nearly irresistible: Find that one special person, marry him or her and you will have someone who loves you and cares for you for the rest of your life. You will have the most important adult relationship, the one everyone wants. Because you have it, you will be happier and healthier than you were when you were single — and morally superior, too.

不过,我们相信婚姻有益,从来都不是完全基于科学,所以,即便是最令人信服的研究也不可能打破这种观念。我们对婚姻的看法慢慢形成了一种意识形态或世界观,我们对它寄予了太多期望。它可能提供的东西令人几乎无法抗拒:找到那个特别的人,跟他(她)结婚,他(她)会一辈子爱你,关心你。你将拥有最重要的成人关系——那是大家都想拥有的。有了它,你会比单身时更快乐、更健康——在道德上也更有优越感。

Now that we know that’s just not so, maybe we should celebrate our newfound wisdom.

既然我们现在知道事实并非如此,也许我们应该弘扬一下这新发现的智慧。

Today nearly as many adults are not married as married. Those who do marry are taking longer than ever to get there, and on average Americans spend more years of their adult lives unmarried than married.

如今,在成年人中,不结婚的人数几乎和结婚的一样多。结婚年龄也比以前都晚,平均来讲,美国人在成年时期,处于非婚状态的时间更长。

The new and accumulating research suggests something heartening: People who are single are doing much better than we realized. Marriage is unlikely to bring lasting improvements to their health or well-being, and could even result in decrements.

这项新的累积性研究揭示了一个令人振奋的情况:单身人士过得比我们所意识到的要好得多。婚姻不大可能持久地改善健康或提升幸福感,甚至可能降低幸福感。

Free of the myth that marriage is a magical potion, we can all pursue the life paths that suit us best. Marriage is still there for those who want it. But now people who prefer to live single can come out of the shadows. The possibilities for meaning and fulfillment in a single life have gone largely unrecognized. It is time for that to change.

不再迷信婚姻是灵药的神话后,我们都可以追求最适合自己的人生道路。想要婚姻的人依然可以结婚。不过现在,那些更喜欢独自生活的人可以走出阴影了。单身生活所可能实现的人生意义和成就,在很大程度上遭到了我们的忽视。现在是做出改变的时候了。

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