Surprising benefits to being married

While anyone who is married could tell you it isn't all steak dinners and roses, marriage has gotten a surprisingly bad rap lately. The rate of marriage is at it's lowest in 150 years for a number of reasons, but there are still many advantages to tying the knot. If you're thinking about making the walk down the aisle (or into city hall), you may be interested to learn about these surprising benefits to being married.

It makes you richer

Being married has many financial benefits, including a number of tax breaks, but it also may actually make you richer. A survey-based study in the Journal of Sociology revealed that "married respondents experience per person net worth increases of 77 percent over single respondents." Married people also gained significantly more wealth than divorced people. So while throwing a wedding might be expensive, marriage may still be a financially savvy decision.

There are better tax benefits

You may know there are tax benefits to being married, but what you may not realize is how many different tax benefits there are to saying "I do." Filing jointly may bring the person who earns more into a lower tax bracket (though for some couples, filing jointly can actually raise their taxes, so if you're married, talk to an accountant to decide what's best for you), and married couples get bigger tax breaks than single people in other instances, such as when they sell a house. A spouse without a job can put joint income into an IRA, which they otherwise wouldn't be able to do. And spouses also don't have to pay federal estate taxes when one member of the couple dies. All these tax benefits almost makes paying taxes fun! Almost.

There are health insurance benefits

A married person may have more options when it comes to health insurance. Most companies provide an option for coverage of an employee's spouse, which they usually won't do for just any live-in partner. So if your husband or wife has better health insurance options than your company provides or you're not working full-time, you may have married into better health insurance. Plus, it's often cheaper to have a family plan than two separate policies. Now that's something to love.

Married people have lower stress

A study at the University of Chicago suggested that married people — and people in long-term, committed relationships — have less dramatic responses to psychological stress. In the study, participants were asked to play a computer game they believed had high stakes for their academic careers. Their saliva was tested for the stress hormone cortisol before and after playing. "We found that unpaired individuals of both sexes had higher cortisol levels than married individuals," said one researcher.

Married couples are less likely to be depressed

It's certainly possible to be happy and single, and marriage by no means guarantees happiness. But at least one study from the University of Virginia showed that single people in their twenties are "more likely to drink to excess, to be depressed, and to report lower levels of satisfaction with their lives, compared to married twentysomethings." Remind yourself of that next time your husband leaves his dirty socks in the middle of the living room.

People with a spouse are less likely to engage in risky behavior

Over time, being married can actually change the way people behave for the better. One interesting way is that married people take fewer risks, including substance abuse. According to researcher Dr. Christopher Fagundes, people who live together act more cautiously than people who live alone, and they become even more cautious after they get hitched. So thank your husband or wife the next time you buckle your seat belt.

They have better outcomes after major surgery

Married people who underwent major heart surgery were three times more likely than unmarried people to still be alive 15 years later, according to researchers from the University of Rochester. It's not clear whether this was because they felt more motivated to stay healthy or because their partner kept them on track with follow-up care. Moreover, the happier the marriage, the better the outcome, so having a happy heart can literally lead to a healthy heart.

They are more likely to survive cancer

A large study of about 800,000 cancer patients found that marital status was a useful indicator of a person's cancer treatment outcome. Married cancer patients were more likely to survive treatment, and researchers at the University of California think it's because they have the reliable "social support" of a spouse.

Married folks get better sleep

You may be constantly annoyed by your spouse stealing the covers, but a study of nearly 2,000 women found that women who reported being in a happy marriage also had better sleep. The happier the women reported being in their marriages, the easier it was for them to fall and stay asleep. Wendy Troxel of the University of Pittsburgh, who authored the study, also reported that divorced women tend to have worse sleep than married women.

Married people live longer

If you love being married, good news: being married may also help you live longer. Living with a partner lowered the mortality rate for men by 80 percent and for women by 59 percent, according to researchers from Michigan State University and the University of Cincinnati. Lead researcher Hui Liu said that marriage had an even more dramatic effect on longevity than simply living with a partner. "Many assume marriage and cohabitation are wholly the same, but our research showed that cohabitation, generally, led to a shorter lifespan," she said.

The greatest benefit of all

Of course, no matter the surprising benefits of marriage, most people still get married for an old-fashioned reason: love and companionship. Yes, love is all you need, but hey, it doesn't hurt that marriage has so many awesome perks.