"Marriage and Friendship."
Successful marriage is the most effective form of social support. It relieves the effects of stress, and leads to better mental and physical health.
While many studies have shown the great importance of "social support", it is still not clear exactly what this means. Most likely it consists of being a sympathetic listener or offering helpful advice; providing emotional support and social acceptance; giving actual help or financial help; and simply doing ordinary things together, like eating, drinking, watching TV and so on.
Husbands seem to benefit much more from marriage than wives do. Married women are in better physical and mental health, and are happier than single women, but these effects are nearly twice as great for men. Various explanations have been considered, but the most plausible is that wives provide more social support than husbands. Perhaps men need it more? They are more exposed to stresses at work, and have worse health, and die earlier than women.
In addition, when women get married, their way of life is subject to much greater change and this often leads to boring and isolated work in the home for which they are ill-prepared. Despite the benefits of marriage, women find it stressful, and are in better shape if they also have jobs; their earnings and status increase their power in the home, and they may also get social support at work.
More women than men emphasized confidentiality and trust; more men than women emphasized pleasure in a friend´s company, going out with a friend and having a friend in one´s home. This is not surprising. Given the traditional differences in sex roles, women are supposed to be more expressive than men, and working class men, in particular, have often been described as spending their leisure time outside the home, in the company of other men. And since an Englishman´s home is supposed to be his castle, it is natural that, apart from relatives, only close friends are allowed or welcomed into it.
More surprising is that as many men as women defined a close friend as someone they can call on for help. It may be that with a nuclear family structure and quite a high level of physical and social mobility, friends are now substitutes for relatives of both sexes. Among the middle-aged men and women in this study, the lack of contact with relatives, even those who lived nearby, was notable, suggesting that friends and relatives are indeed interchangeable.
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