Marriage and Psychological Wellbeing: The Role of Social Support


The married consistently report better levels of psychological health compared to the unmarried. Using a cross-sectional questionnaire design, this research examines to what extent this relationship between marital status and psychological wellbeing can be explained by perceived social support. The data reveal that, after controlling for demographic variables, number of daily hassles and coping strategies, widowed and divorced adults report significantly poorer psychological health compared to those who remain married. Moreover, while there was limited evidence that perceived social support moderates the association between marital status and psychological wellbeing, perceived social support did emerge as a significant mediator of this relationship. Perceived social support explained the influence of being widowed, divorced and never married on psychological wellbeing, such that lower levels of support in these groups resulted in poorer psychological health. Thus, social support may be an important variable for interventions to minimize the negative consequences of a transition out of marriage.

Share and Cite:

Soulsby, L. and Bennett, K. (2015) Marriage and Psychological Wellbeing: The Role of Social Support. Psychology, 6, 1349-1359. doi: 10.4236/psych.2015.611132.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Baron, R. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The Moderator-Mediator Variable Distinction in Social Psychological Research: Conceptual, Strategic, and Statistical Considerations. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 51, 1173-1182.
[2] Barrett, A. E. (1999). Social Support and Life Satisfaction among the Never Married: Examining the Effects of Age. Research on Aging, 21, 46-72.
[3] Bierman, A., Fazio, E. M., & Milkie, M. A. (2006). A Multifaceted Approach to the Mental Health Advantage of the Married. Journal of Family Issues, 27, 554-582.
[4] Carver, C. S. (1997). You Want to Measure Coping but Your Protocol’s Too Long: Consider the Brief COPE. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 4, 92-100.
[5] Cohen, J., & Cohen, P. (1983). Applied Multiple Regression/Correlation Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
[6] Cohen, S., & Wills, T. A. (1985). Stress, Social Support, and the Buffering Hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, 98, 310-357.
[7] Coyne, J. C., & DeLongis, A. (1986). Going beyond Social Support: The Role of Social Relations in Adaptation. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 54, 454-460.
[8] Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The Satisfaction with Life Scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49, 71-75.
[9] Duffy, M. E. (1993). Social Networks and Social Support of Recently Divorced Women. Public Health Nursing, 10, 19-24.
[10] Dush, C. M. K., & Amato, P. R. (2005). Consequences of Relationship Status and Quality for Subjective Well-Being. Journal of Social & Personal Relationships, 22, 607-627.
[11] Goldberg, D. (1978). Manual of the GHQ. Windsor, UK: NFER-Nelson.
[12] Gove, W. R., Hughes, M., & Style, C. B. (1983). Does Marriage Have Positive Effects on the Psychological Well-Being of the Individual? Journal of Health & Social Behavior, 24, 122-131.
[13] Hayes, A. F. (2009). Beyond Baron and Kenny: Statistical Mediation Analysis in the New Millennium. Communication Monographs, 76, 408-420.
[14] Hayes, A. F., & Matthes, J. (2009). Computational Procedures for Probing Interactions in OLS and Logistic Regression: SPSS and SAS Implementations. Behavior Research Methods, 41, 924-936.
[15] Hewitt, B., Turrell, G., & Giskes, K. (2010). Marital Loss, Mental Health and the Role of Perceived Social Support: Findings from Six Waves of an Australian Population Panel Study. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 66, 308-314.
[16] House, J. S., Landis, K. R., & Umberson, D. (1988). Social Relationships and Health. Science, 241, 540-545.
[17] Kohn, P. & Macdonald, J. E. (1992). The Survey of Life Experiences: A Decontaminated Hassles Scale for Adults. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 15, 221-236.
[18] Krantz, J. H., & Dalal, R. (2000). Validity of Web-Based Psychological Research. In M. H. Birnbaum (Ed.), Psychological Experiments on the Internet (pp. 35-60). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
[19] Marks, N. F. (1996). Flying Solo at Midlife: Gender, Marital Status, and Psychological Well-Being. Journal of Marriage & Family, 58, 917-932.
[20] MacKinnon, D. P., Fairchild, A. J., & Fritz, M. S. (2007). Mediation Analysis. Annual Reviews of Psychology, 58, 593-614.
[21] McLaughlin, J., Horwitz, A. V., & White, H. R. (2002). The Differential Importance of Friend, Relative and Partner Relationships for the Mental Health of Young Adults. Advances in Medical Sociology, 8, 223-246.
[22] Overbeek, G., Vollebergh, W., de Graaf, R., Scholte, R., de Kemp, R., & Engels, R. (2006). Longitudinal Associations of Marital Quality and Marital Dissolution with the Incidence of DSM-III-R Disorders. Journal of Family Psychology, 20, 284-291.
[23] Pavot, W., & Diener, E. (1993). Review of the Satisfaction with Life Scale. Psychological Assessment, 5, 164-172.
[24] Pearlin, L. I., & Johnson, J. S. (1977). Marital Status, Life-Strains and Depression. American Sociological Review, 42, 704-715.
[25] Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2008). Asymptotic and Resampling Strategies for Assessing and Comparing Indirect Effects in Multiple Mediator Models. Behavior Research Methods, 40, 879-891.
[26] Pugliesi, K., & Shook, S. L. (1998). Gender, Ethnicity and Network Characteristics: Variation in Social Support Resources 1. Sex Roles, 38, 215-238.
[27] Radloff, L. S. (1977). The CES-D Scale: A Self-Report Depression Scale for Research in the General Population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1, 385-401.
[28] Reips, U. D. (2002). Standards for Internet-Based Experimenting. Experimental Psychology, 49, 243-256.
[29] Ross, C. E. (1995). Reconceptualizing Marital Status as a Continuum of Social Attachment. Journal of Marriage & Family, 57, 129-140.
[30] Schmidt, W. (1997). World-Wide Web Survey Research: Benefits, Potential Problems and Solutions. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers, 29, 274-279.
[31] Sherbourne, C. D., & Hays, R. D. (1990). Marital Status, Social Support and Health Transitions in Chronic Disease Patients. Journal of Health & Social Behavior, 31, 328-342.
[32] Sherbourne, C. D., & Stewart, A. L. (1991). The MOS Social Support Survey. Social Science & Medicine, 32, 705-714.
[33] Soons, J. P. M., & Liefbroer, A. C. (2008). Together Is Better? Effects of Relationship Status and Resources on Young Adults’ Well-Being. Journal of Social & Personal Relationships, 2, 603-624.
[34] Stutzer, A., & Frey, B. S. (2006). Does Marriage Make People Happy, or Do Happy People Get Married? Journal of Socio-Economics, 35, 326-347.
[35] Thoits, P. (1995). Stress, Coping and Social Support Processes: What Are We? What Next? Journal of Health & Social Behavior, 35, 53-79.
[36] Waite, L. J. (1995). Does Marriage Matter? Demography, 32, 483-507.
[37] Waite, L. J., & Gallagher, M. (2000). The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier and Better off Financially. New York: Doubleday.
[38] Waldron, I., Hughes, M. E., & Brooks, T. L. (1996). Marriage Protection and Marriage Selection: Prospective Evidence for Reciprocal Effects of Marital Status and Health. Social Science & Medicine, 43, 113-123.
[39] Walker, K. N., MacBride, A., & Vachon, M. L. S. (1977). Social Support Networks and the Crisis of Bereavement. Social Science & Medicine, 11, 35-41.
[40] Wyke, S., & Ford, G. (1992). Competing Explanations for Associations between Marital Status and Health. Social Science & Medicine, 34, 523-532.

Copyright © 2020 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.