Does socioeconomic status moderate the link between marital quality and health?

Chen, Po-Heng
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The quality of a person’s marital relationship is an important and robust predictor of their health outcomes, including mental and physical illness and mortality. Yet large disparities in health across socioeconomic status (SES) call into question the extent to which marital quality is protective of health for individuals across the socioeconomic spectrum. The current study investigated whether the associations between marital quality and 10-year physical and mental health outcomes differ across socioeconomic status (SES). Participants were drawn from the Midlife in the United States Study (N = 2,097) and represented a wide range of SES, with a mean household income of $88,962 (SD = $63,378). All participants were in the same marriage at baseline and at the 10-year follow-up. Results indicate that SES moderates the association between marital quality and subjective mental and physical health outcomes, such that higher levels of marital quality are associated with better health only for individuals with high levels of household income. Thus, results of our study indicate that although marital quality may be important for health outcomes, its impact on physical health is eclipsed by the impact of socioeconomic status.