Married people live longer, are happier and healthier.

541713912_4307575c98_nMarried people live longer, are happier and healthier, according to a number of high profile studies. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) recently produced figures which show that people living in intimate relationships have lower death rates than single people in almost all age groups. The ABS compared the rate of death for single people versus married ones and found that death rates begin to widen between the groups when an individual hits 40 years of age. This gap spikes between the ages of 70 and 84, at which point the death rate for single people is apparently almost double that of married people.

Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher in their book The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better off Financially try to explain exactly why married people apparently live longer. They state that there are a number of possible reasons and it is arguable that it is a combination of these reasons that result in married peoples longer life expectancy. These reasons include a better financial picture, better mental health, and the idea that someone is there to support and look after you should you fall under stress or become ill. According to a study published as early as 1990 single women have a 50% higher mortality rate than married women (Ross Catherine E, Mirowsky John, Goldsteen Karen, The impact of the family on health: A decade in review, Journal of Marriage and the Family, 1990 November).

A recent survey of 127,545 American adults found that married men are healthier than those who never married, were widowed or divorced. Men aged 25 or over when they married had a lower death rate than those aged under 25 at the point of marriage. According to an article published on the Harvard Health Publications webpage entitled Marriage and Men’s Health, ‘numerous studies conducted over the past 150 years suggest that marriage is good for health. More recently, scientists have begun to understand why married men enjoy better health than their single, divorced, and widowed peers.’ The webpage goes on to discuss ‘how marriage affects specific diseases, including America’s leading killers, cardiovascular disease and cancer.’ According to the ‘Framingham Offspring Study… marriage is truly heartwarming. Scientists evaluated 3,682 adults over a 10-year period. Even after taking major cardiovascular risk factors such as age, body fat, smoking, blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol into account, married men had a 46% lower rate of death than unmarried men.’ Furthermore, ‘a study of 27,779 cancer cases found that unmarried individuals were more likely to have advanced disease at the time of diagnosis than married persons’. ‘Scientists from the University of Miami investigated 143,063 men with [prostate cancer]. Over a 17-year period, married men survived far longer (median 69 months) than separated and widowed patients (38 months); men who had never married had an intermediate survival rate (49 months). And researchers from Harvard and UCLA have identified similar survival benefits for married patients with bladder cancer.’

However, marriage does come with its downside: the possibility of getting divorced or becoming widowed both of which are likely to increase stress and have serious effects on mental health. The ‘MRFIT study of 10,904 American married men [revealed that] men who divorced were 37% more likely to die during the nine-year study than men who remained married. Similarly, a British study of 9,011 civil servants linked stressful relationships to a 34% increase in the risk of heart attacks and angina. And an Israeli study of 10,059 men found that stressful family relationships appeared to increase the risk of dying from a stroke by 34%. Divorce also triggers a sharp increase in the rate of suicide by men.’ A study that tracked married people over a 14 to 23 year period showed that ‘healthy men who lost a wife were 2.1 times more likely to die during the study period than healthy men who were not bereaved; for men with pre-existing medical problems, bereavement boosted the rate of death 1.6 times. The risk was greatest from s7 to 12 months after the loss, but an elevated death rate persisted for more than two years.’

But what about those who cohabit? Can these people replicate the apparent health benefits of the happily married? There are fewer studies in this area, however arguably if the relationship is long term then the benefits of marriage will surely apply: financial support, support in sickness and stress, and decreased loneliness and mental health difficulties.

Harvard Health Publications webpage can be found here: http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Mens_Health_Watch/2010/July/marriage-and-mens-health

Ross Catherine E, Mirowsky John, Goldsteen Karen, The impact of the family on health: A decade in review, Journal of Marriage and the Family, 1990 November can be found here: https://campus.fsu.edu/bbcswebdav/institution/academic/social_sciences/sociology/Reading%20Lists/Mental%20Health%20Readings/Ross-MarriageandFamily-1990.pdf

The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better off Financially can be found on amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Case-Marriage-Healthier-Financially/dp/0767906322

The Australian Bureau of Statistics webpage can be found here: http://www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/D3310114.nsf/home/home?opendocument

Photo by {inercia} via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

One thought on “Married people live longer, are happier and healthier.

  1. pete phoenix

    Good post Zoe.
    Always knew there had to be some reason why I’d stuck around for thirty-five years. :-)))

    Reply

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