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Long marriage adds years to your life

Being married extends your lifespan, and the longer your marriage lasts, the lower your chance of dying. Sociologists at Duke University in the US discovered this when they analysed data from the Health and Retirement Study, in which researchers monitored ten thousand Americans born between 1931 and 1941.

Long marriage adds years to your life
Earlier studies had already shown that marriage is healthy for men in particular. After a divorce or the death of a partner, the chance of dying increases considerably for the man left behind. Researchers put this down to the fact that women are better able to take care of themselves than men, and that women usually have a better social network.

The researchers here wanted to get a better picture of the relationship between survival, marriage and gender, so they split the data up further than had been done in previous studies. This resulted in the table below. The left-hand column contains data on the men's mortality, and the right-hand column the same data for women.

Long marriage adds years to your life

Long marriage adds years to your life
If men divorce, their chance of dying increases by almost thirty percent. The figure for women is about half of that for men. Divorce is unhealthier than being widowed. For men at least. Women's chance of dying generally does not increase after the death of a partner.

The longer men and women have been divorced, the more the chance of dying decreases. However bad the results of divorce are, in the end most men manage to restabilise.

An interesting finding is that it is healthier for men not to marry before 26. Early marriage increases mortality in men. The researchers have no explanation for this.

The best predictor for survival that the researchers could find, however, was the length of time that both men and women had been married. The longer a marriage had lasted, the lower the relative chance of dying. Marriage is like sport. The longer you do it, the healthier you get.

Am J Epidemiol. 2009 Sep 1;170(5):546-55.

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