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Case Study 1:  For Better or Worse?

A report based on the National Health Interview Survey found that married adults report better health than non-married adults.  Interviews with 127,545 adults, 18-years-old and up were conducted by researchers for the Centers for Disease Control (UPI, 2004).

The survey includes hundreds of questions about health and related behaviors and functioning. Participants are asked to rate their overall health. (“Would you say your health in general is poor, fair, very good or excellent?”)  There are also many questions about specific health conditions. (“Have you ever been told by a doctor or health professional that you have hypertension or high blood pressure?”) Questions relating to participants’ mental health are also asked. (“During the past 30 days how often do you feel so sad that nothing could cheer you up? All, most, some, a little, or none of the time?”)  Interviewers also make inquiries about behaviors that affect health. (“On average, how many cigarettes do you smoke a day?” “How often do you do light or moderate leisure-time physical activities for at least 10 minutes?”)(CDC, 2004).

According to the CDC, married adults were both physically and psychologically healthier than divorced, widowed or never married adults (Olen, 2004).  For example, married adults had fewer headaches and backaches, smoked and drank less, and were more physically active than non-married adults.  This trend was not seen for one health factor, however, as married men were more likely to be overweight than were unmarried men.

The results above come from a correlation study.  It goes beyond a descriptive study, yet it is not an experiment. Describe what a correlation study is and how one goes about conducting such a study Explain what characteristics the study has that makes it a correlation study and not merely descriptive. Also explain why the study does not qualify as an experiment.

Is the relationship between marriage and general health positive or negative?  Is the relationship between marriage and smoking (e.g., number of cigarettes smoked) positive or negative?  Explain your answers, i.e., what makes the relationships positive or negative? (2 points)    (Assume that marriage can be represented by scores on a scale and being married gives you higher scores on this “marriage” scale.  Likewise, healthier people would have higher scores on a health scale whereas; unhealthy people would have lower scores.)

Based on the results of this study alone,

would you advise a person that getting married would improve their health? That is, can you conclude from the results of this study that being married causes better health outcomes?  Explain your answer.

One article on the internet about the CDC study was entitled “Marriage: It’s good for your health!”.  From a scientific point of view is this the most accurate description of the results of such a study?  Explain your answer.

Give three alternative explanations for a relationship between marriage and health   You need to include your rationalization behind each alternative explanation, so I can understand your reasoning. (4.5 points).  (Think in terms of the directionality and third variable issues discussed in class. That is, might A (marriage) affect B (health), or could B (health) affect A (marriage)?  Or is it possible that another variable (C) affects both A and B?  I expect that you will have one alternative explanation fitting each of these categories. I do not want three explanations for why A causes B.)


CDC. (2004, May3).  NHIS Questionnaire. Retrieved January 3, 2004 from the World Wide Web: ftp://ftp.cdc.gov/pub/Health_Statistics/NCHS/Survey_Questionnaires/NHIS/2004/qadult.pdf

Olen, L. (2004, December, 16). Health and marriage go together, CDC survey says. Retrieved December 17, 2004 from World Wide Web: http//health.dailynewscentral.net/index2.php?option=content&task=view&id=000214&p

United Press International. (2004, December 15).  Marriage: It’s good for your health! Retrieved December 17, 2004 from World Wide Web:

http://www.wphearld.com/print.php?StoryID= 20041215-055155-8332r

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