At last, good news for long-suffering wives and husbands. According to a study by Aston Medical School in Birmingham, staying with your other half in sickness and in health is more likely to keep you alive.

In what was the largest study of its kind researchers analysed a database of more than one million patients with an average age of 60, over a 13-year period.

The results were conclusive: being married is better for your health. They found that those with a spouse were less likely to die from high blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type 2 Diabetes - the biggest risk factors for heart disease. The reason for such improved longevity was attributed to partners badgering one other about medication, eating healthily and getting enough exercise.

But if the results are vindication for those who choose to stick together, experts warn we shouldn't use this as an excuse to rush out and tie the knot.

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"The findings shouldn't be seen as a reason to get married," says lead researcher Dr Paul Carter, who presented the study at the British Cardiovascular Society Conference in Manchester, "but as an encouragement for people to build strong support networks with their family and friends."

Marriage has long been thought of as a panacea for the soul. In 2010, the World Health Organisation found it could reduce the risk of anxiety and depression, and marital partners were much less likely to suffer the blues than those who stayed single. Research from the University of California has also proved that death rates of those with cancer were lower if patients were not single - a fact attributed to having better health insurance and what they called "social support".

For women, the good news keeps coming. Two years ago another piece of research came to the fore that suggested that, although marriage was long known to have beneficial psychological and physical effects, being single has less of a negative effect on women than on men.

The findings, by the University College London, the London School of Economics and The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, stated that middle-aged women who had never married had virtually the same chance of developing metabolic syndrome - a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity - as their married counterparts.

"Not marrying or cohabiting is less detrimental among woman than men," said Dr George Ploubidis, a population health scientist at the UCL Institute of Education.

In other words, saying "I don't" and living a life of TV dinners-for-one is not as bad for you as some (read: your mother) would have you believe. Unmarried men, on the other hand, experienced a 14 per cent rise in a biomarker for heart problems. Unmarried women, in the sample of 10,000 testers, experienced little to no difference.

In single women, a slightly higher level in a biomarker that signifies an increased risk of breathing problems was found but it was still far lower than the same risk in unmarried men.

More data to dispel the "ball and chain" view of marriage comes from America's Institute for Family Studies, which found that the benefits of marriage for men "are substantial by every conceivable measure, including more money, a better sex life, and significantly better physical and mental health".

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What's more, married men were found to earn between 10 per cent and 40 per cent more than comparable singles.

Saying "I do" could be the best thing a man does for his health and wallet whereas women can - according to the experts - take it or leave it.

How to nurture your marriage

By Becky Spelman, psychologist

• Don't believe what the movies suggest about new sexual partners. You and your significant other should be able to relax completely into each other, and it is this intimacy that can be the bedrock of truly mind-blowing sex. If your sexual relationship is not where you want it to be, talk about it openly, avoiding any blame.

• Grow the family. Not another child. A family dog or cat can be unifying, though - and prepares you for the empty nest when the kids leave home.

• Remember when you were a teenager and you lived for the thrill of a hot date? Take turns to plan interesting and fun date nights out.

• Appreciate each other. It can be easy to forget the little things in a relationship spanning decades, but it is these small, sometimes incidental, things make or break marriages. Try to appreciate three things about your partner every day and, crucially, share them. They aren't mind readers.

• Get active. Couples who exercise together, stay together. Find a sport or fitness class that you both enjoy, and get stuck in.