When it comes to living younger, marriage matters. But not if you’re only married for the sake of the kids, or because staying married is easier than getting divorced. The real anti-aging benefits come from a healthy, happy and fulfilling union. In fact, a happy marriage can help make your RealAge up to 4.2 years younger if you’re a man and 2.5 years younger if you’re a woman. That’s why we factored marriage into the RealAge 2013 Youngest & Oldest Cities in America Report.
“Marriage itself is usually our most important social interaction,” says Keith Roach, MD, Sharecare's chief medical officer and co-creator of the RealAge Test. Other relationships are significant, but marriage is the most important of all. “Someone who is happily married has the lowest risk of heart disease, cancer, even car accidents,” says Dr. Roach. Happy marriages are especially important for men between ages 30 to 64. They're 30% less likely to have a heart attack than divorced men, and their cancer risk drops dramatically. “It likely has to do with less stress, from the emotional support of a partner to sharing affection and intimacy," says Dr. Roach.
Cincinnati climbed from #4 last year to the top of our “Best Cities for a Happy Marriage” list. The Cincinnati Music Mall, home to the city’s symphony, opera and ballet, is a popular venue for weddings and date nights. Making time for your spouse strengthens your bond, and studies show that enjoying music improves immunity, reduces stress and promotes relaxation. In addition to making major improvements in stress levels, high rankings for sex and exercise helped move Cincinnati to the top of the list.
Dubbed “The Crossroads of the West,” Salt Lake City has long been hailed as a bustling place for young love. People in Utah have the lowest average age for first-time married couples in the U.S. at age 26 for grooms and 23 for brides. From the popular Temple Square to the historic McCune Mansion, romantic wedding venues are rich in this city. The wedded bliss carries over into many aspects of a healthy life. SLC residents also rank in the top 10 for maintaining healthy diets, having an optimistic attitude -- and not smoking.
The South may have some of the highest divorce rates in the country, but happy marriages abound in Greenville. South Carolina boasts the lowest divorce rate in the South at 3.2% -- below the national average. Set at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Greenville is home to charming wedding spots. While couples here stick together, they would do well to eat healthier and get more exercise. The city ranks high for cholesterol and hypertension levels. These combined aging factors can outweigh the health benefits of a happy union as Greenville ranks in the Top 10 Oldest Cities in America. “Cities high in marriage are sometimes the least healthy cities,” says Dr. Roach.
Beer isn’t the only thing brewing in Milwaukee. Known as “Brew City,” Milwaukee has ingredients for nuptials that last -- Wisconsin enjoys one of the lowest divorce rates in the country. The Mitchell Park Conservatory is a popular venue for tying the knot -- three massive glass greenhouses called The Domes provide gorgeous garden settings year round. Couples here also know how to catch their ZZZs as Milwaukee ranks first in “Best Cities for Sleep.” Sleep, which has a major effect on mood, can help partners feel the love and lowers overall risk of depression and other health problems. Little wonder that residents also get high marks for managing stress.
Rich in history and pride, Boston can now boast its ranking as one of the “Best Cities for a Happy Marriage.” Though a newcomer to this list, Beantown is no stranger to healthy living as it ranked #4 overall for Sharecare’s Youngest Cities in America. One reason may be the city’s reputation as a hub for both health and higher education. Residents rank high in income and top the list for residents holding health insurance, which means more regular doctor visits and proactive disease prevention. Couples in this historic town can seal the deal at several picture-perfect spots, including the Boston Public Library’s grand rooms and galleries.
It turns out strong love connections are made in Steel City, appearing for the first time on this list. With its industrial history and a new wave of booming high-tech growth, Pittsburgh is a city that’s no stranger to hard work. Sometimes that’s what it takes to make a marriage last, but residents are up to the task. More good news for the ‘Burgh: Although residents could use more produce and whole grains on their plates, they’re passing up the red meat, getting a fair amount of exercise and have a low diabetes rate.
Southern hospitality overflows in North Carolina’s “Queen City.” Charlotte hosts the country’s largest Renaissance-themed festival and showcases charm at every corner, giving couples plenty of opportunities to relax and connect. And while Charlotte ranks high when it comes to marital bliss, couples have some health factors to overcome, given the city’s high smoking rates and low rankings in heart health. Couples can extend their years by eating more fruits and veggies and chucking the cigarettes. In fact, stopping smoking can add 3.6 years to your life if you’re a man and 5.2 years to your life if you’re a woman by reducing the risk of heart disease, cancer and a host of other problems.
Restoration and revival are in full force in architecture, marriage and healthy living here. Romance fills venues such as the Capitol Theatre, an old movie theater recently restored to an art deco-themed dinner theater, and Castleton Farms, a Greek revival antebellum home. In the same way, Knoxville has made significant improvements over its rankings last year for diabetes, sleep, exercise, employment and optimism — all of which can boost marital satisfaction.
Indianapolis is best known for hosting the Indianapolis 500 -- but it’s also home to many happy marriages. Indiana residents marry slightly younger than the national average but also stay married a bit longer -- perhaps because they fare so well when it comes to anger management. Part of this may be because Indy residents know how to relax and chill with their buddies. Indianapolis ranks high for having strong social networks, which can boost your immune system and fight off depression. “We’re social creatures and not as independent as people think,” says Roach. The Skyline Club, located atop the One America Building, offers sweeping views for couples starting their lifelong romance.
From Castle Farms to the St. Cecilia Music Center, picturesque wedding venues paint the perfect backdrop for the big day around Grand Rapids. While the city ranks in the middle when it comes to healthy eating and sleep – couples may be doing a bit too much of the latter at bedtime. Grand Rapids ranks at the very bottom for sex, which can be a key contributor to happiness. A little more fun in bed can defuse anger – residents get low marks when it comes to blowing off steam — and make a good marriage even stronger.