Back in 2012, Tom began working on a photo series with a client, Belmont Village Senior Living, called “Lasting Love,” taking portraits of couples that have been married for fifty or more years. Tom and I were 28 years old at the time and planning our wedding, which would take place that June.

Tom almost always talks to his subjects when he’s shooting them as a way to get to know them, elicit authentic emotion and capture their true nature, and this series of portraits was no exception. After a few, he was so moved by his interactions with these couples that he invited me to come to meet some of these seniors and listen to what they had to say about love.

This week, 11 years later, Tom is in California shooting yet another installment of the Lasting Love series. And again, he is inspired and touched by the couples he’s meeting who have been married for 30, 40, and sometimes 50 years. He’s also noticed how many of these couples seem to be in pretty good physical and mental health and was thus inspired to look into whether any research has been done around the correlation of long-term love and health.

It has. A recent study published in Global Epidemiology this spring followed 11,830 American female nurses over a 25 year span, beginning when they were all unmarried. They then compared those who married over a four year period with those who remained unmarried, looking at how all of these women faired after 25 years, in terms of mental and physical health and longevity, accounting for things like age, race, and socioeconomic status.

Say the study’s authors, Brendan Case and Ying Chen: “Our findings were striking. The women who got married in the initial time frame, including those who subsequently divorced, had a 35% lower risk of death for any reason over the follow-up period than those who did not marry in that period. Compared to those who didn’t marry, the married women also had lower risk of cardiovascular disease, less depression and loneliness, were happier and more optimistic, and had a greater sense of purpose and hope.”

According to Psychology Today, even just sleeping next to a romantic partner has health benefits, as shown by a study out of the University of Arizona. Lead author Brandon Fuentes explains, “Sleeping with a romantic partner or spouse shows to have great benefits on sleep health including reduced sleep apnea risk, sleep insomnia severity, and overall improvement in sleep quality.” Other specific sleep improvements of sleeping with a romantic partner included: less fatigue, falling asleep faster, spending more time asleep, and lower reported anxiety, stress, and depression.

Marriage is hard. But turns out, it’s still some of the good stuff.

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