Married people live longest

03/06/2002 10:00

People who are married live longer than those who are not and those who are divorced or widowed. Fifty-year-old men who are married will live about four years longer than never-married men and three years longer than divorced men of the same age. For women, marriage seems to have a slightly smaller effect on life expectancy. Fifty-year-old married women live two years longer than their unmarried, divorced and widowed peers.

Life expectancy of 50-year-olds by marital status

Marriage as the elixir of life

Do married people live longer because marriage is good for their health? Or do unhealthy people have more difficulty finding someone to marry? This cause and effect puzzle is not easily solved.

It is noticeable that across the board married people have lower mortality risks. This may be the consequence of their relatively healthy lifestyle. Never-married and divorced people more often have unhealthier lifestyles in terms of smoking, drinking and obesity.

Men benefit more from marriage

The positive effect of marriage is larger for men than for women. This might be because women are more health conscious than men in general, both with regard to themselves and to their partners. Women also have more extensive social networks than men. Men often only have their wives to turn to with problems, and therefore divorce from or the death of a partner may be more damaging for their health than for the health of women in the same situation.

Andries de Jong