Lead author Dario Maestripieri, a professor at the University of Chicago, and colleagues at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University, studied 500 master's degree students -- 348 men and 153 women with a mean age of 27 -- at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. About 40 percent of the men and 53 percent of the women students were married or in a relationship.
The students were asked to play a series of computer games that tested economic behaviors and were told the test was not only a course requirement, but would affect their future career placement. Saliva samples were taken to test for the stress hormone cortisol.
The study, published in the journal Stress, found cortisol concentrations increased in all student but females experienced a higher average increase than males.
"We found that unpaired individuals of both sexes had higher cortisol levels than married individuals," Maestripieri says in a statement. "Although marriage can be pretty stressful, it should make it easier for people to handle other stressors in their lives -- what we found is that marriage has a dampening effect on cortisol responses to psychological stress, and that is very new."