Marriage and Mental Health in Mid-Life: A U.S.-Japan Comparison

James Raymo, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Deborah Carr, Rutgers University

We evaluate how the association between marriage and mental health is shaped by social context in two distinctive cultural settings: the U.S. and Japan. We examine comparable data from the Surveys of Mid-life Development in the U.S. (MIDUS) and Japan (MIDJA). Our results indicate that marriage is associated with better general health, higher levels of positive affect, and lower levels of negative affect in both countries. We also find that the benefits are limited to those in happy marriages. Comparisons across the two countries reveal important gender differences. We find no gender differences in the health effects of marriage or martial quality in the U.S. yet the relationship between marriage and better mental health in Japan is much stronger for men than for women. These results highlight how cultural differences in the social valuation of marriage and gender relations within marriage shape adult health and well-being.

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Presented in Poster Session 5