Marriage Madness; Study Finds Women's Mental Health Benefits Just as Much as Men's in marriage.(Opinion &Amp; Editorial)

Article excerpt

Byline: EMMA ROSS AP Medical Writer

THE long-standing feminist tenet that marriage makes men much happier but women more miserable has been dealt a blow by new research that finds wives are no more likely than husbands to suffer emotional problems.

Experts say that while it is

now clear that married

people are emotionally better

off than divorced or single

people, it remains to be

proven that marriage itself

reduces the risk of an

emotional disorder. It could

be that people with better

mental health are more likely

to get married, while those

with problems shy away

from marriage, are not

able to attract partners

or end up divorced

The findings, which come from the largest study to investigate the question of who is more afflicted by marriage, are published in the current issue of the Australian journal Family Matters.

Feminist scholar Jessie Bernard was among the first to postulate that men benefited emotionally from marriage while women suffered.

Her research, published in a 1972 best seller "The Future of Marriage," fed into the evolving feminist belief that the institution of marriage oppressed women.

The theory has lasted, despite that scientists have shown her studies to have been flawed and more recent research has contradicted the 30-year-old findings.

"This view of the effect of marriage on men and women has been enormously influential and has become part of the 'common knowledge' about marriage," said David De Vaus, a professor of sociology at La Trobe University in Melbourne who conducted the latest study.

"But the patterns that were suggested by people like Jessie Bernard .... (are) just not true. The evidence is unequivocal," he said.

"What the early studies did was center largely on typical female disorders - anxiety, depression, phobias," De Vaus said. "What they ignored are the types of mental illness more common in men, such as drug and alcohol abuse."

Bernard, who died in 1996, found that married women were more depressed than married men; that married women were more depressed than single women, but that married men were less depressed than bachelors.

De Vaus' study involved 10,641 Australian adults who were interviewed personally to establish the state of their mental health.

The survey classified people as having a mental disorder based on the World Health Organization definition after asking whether certain symptoms and incidents had occurred in the 12 months leading up to the interview. …