MRS STIRLING is less than impressed by new research that claims married couples really do live longer.

She says it only feels like it.

Nancy and I celebrate our 40th anniversary later this year.

My "time off for good behaviour" party piece wore thin long ago.

After such an innings (and they said it wouldn't last!) you'd expect us to endorse the venerable institution, so again we say "I do".

Wedlock gives men much more than the obvious conjugal fringe benefits, but their significant others may complain their role is little more than a mother substitute, servicing a four-letter menu of wash, iron, cook, dust, golf.

I'd get a flea in my ear for suggesting that nagging is the secret to a healthy marriage, but are Oxford University boffins beyond reproach?

Dr Sarah Floud, in their Million Women Study, says wives are 28% less likely to die from heart disease than unmarried women, and they are more likely to seek treatment early because of a partner's constant nagging.

"Married women are no less likely to develop heart disease than unmarried women, but they are less likely to die from it," says Dr Floud.

The good doctor doesn't refer to male hearts, presumably because wild nags wouldn't drag most of us to our GP.

It's been my experience that couples enjoy a good old nag whether they are married or not, but University of Virginia research claims the brains of spouses respond differently to stress than the brains of unmarried couples.

What they really mean by "unmarried", surely, is women living on their own, but I wouldn't get too distressed, ladies.

We are enduring a surfeit of mumbo-jumbo as boffins justify their research grants.

Harvard Medical School researchers claim being married is good for blood pressure - "They must mean yours," says Mrs S - and a University of North Carolina study claims to debunk theories that couples who first lived together got divorced more often than those who didn't.

They claim it's a question of how old couples were when they decided to shack up, which leaves in limbo those many men who, according to many women, never grow up.

And it's claimed that for every year a woman waits to get married, right into her 30s, she reduces her chances of divorce.

You might tell the lassie she may also reduce her chances of finding Mr Right - or, as Nancy calls him, the man who likes to be known as Always.

Relationships are enough of a minefield without the interventions of pontificating profs - and I can't wait for their scientific analysis of same-sex partnerships - but has the battle of the sexes commonly known as marriage finally lost its appeal?

The number of people tying the knot in Scotland has fallen to its second lowest level in more than 100 years.

The National Records of Scotland recorded 27,547 marriages last year, nearly 3000 down on 2012 and only 23 higher than the 2009 record low.

However, there's no shortage of couples still desperate to lock horns, they just don't feel the need to seal the deal with a marriage licence. My parents and Nancy's were 60-plus years together.

In their day it was called living in sin, or having a bidey-in.

But many of today's youngsters would appear to agree with David Cameron, who said in Scotland last week we shouldn't buy a motor without an MOT.

Today many couples prefer to road test the ball and chain before they will even consider applying for a licence.

In 2012, almost half of all babies born to females aged 18 to 33 - millennials, they're called - arrived without the need for a wedding ring on mum's finger.

At 47%, that's a 12% rise on the previous generation.

ANY taboo surrounding living in sin has long since disappeared, and rightly so. Each to their own.

Marriage is no longer a sacred cow, thanks in part to the gradual and welcome collapse of religious dogma; plus, the ease with which you can divorce has tarnished its original meaning.

Nancy and me would have been no less committed to each other, and our two sons, without that piece of paper. And, anyway, marriage can be bad for a woman's weight.

According to yet another survey, this one from Down Under, brides put on nearly five pounds after just six months of wedded bliss.

Nancy says as single women they'd see what was in the fridge before heading for bed, then eventually as wives they see what's in bed and head for the fridge.

Forget all the hocus-pocus, guys. If you want a happy alliance, find yourself a droll doll.