Marriage is Associated with Lower Risk of Death for Men

Since 1858, we have known that mortality rates are lower for married individuals compared to people who are single. Why? We don’t know. We don’t even know why there is excess mortality among the unmarried. Of course, there are many hypotheses.

Recently published article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ September 20, 2011) shows that death rate among married men experiencing a heart attack was lower than women or single man in the same situation. Why? Earlier presentation for medical care appears to be one reason.

The authors of the article studied 4403 eligible patients who were diagnosed to have a heart attack. The mean age was 67.3 years, and 37 per cent of them were women. Overall, 75 per cent of married patients, 68 per cent of single patients, 68 per cent of divorced patients and 70 per cent of widowed patients presented within six hours of the onset of chest pain. This shows that being married was associated with lower odds of delayed presentation.

The authors of the article say that marriage has long been known to offer health benefits and is associated with a lower risk of death relative to people who are not married. The effect is more pronounced among men than among women. However, the specific mechanisms responsible for the lower rate of cardiovascular deaths in married persons (especially men) are not known.

One hypotheses proposed is that wives would be more likely than husbands to assume the caregiver role and that the beneficial effect of marriage would therefore be stronger among men than among women.

One British study says, “Although it is known that the length of a person’s life depends on a mixture of economic and social factors, the relative importance of these is still debated.” They concluded that that marriage has a more important effect on longevity than income does. For men, the effect of being married is positive and substantial. For women, the influence of marriage is smaller. Exactly how marriage works its magic remains mysterious, say the authors of the British study.

Here are some more statistics from other scientific studies:

  • Single men have mortality rates that are 250 per cent higher than married men
  • Single women have mortality rates that are 50 per cent higher than married women
  • Married women are 30 per cent more likely to rate their health as excellent or very good compared to single women
  • Married men may have better immune systems as well, either from support or from nagging to monitor blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, etc… and may be at less risk to catch colds
  • Married men are half as likely to commit suicide as single men, and one third as likely as divorced men.
  • Widowed men under 45 are nine times more likely to commit suicide as married men
  • Single men drink twice as much as married men, and one out of four say their drinking causes problems. Only one of seven married men says the same.

There are lot more statistics to suggest that having a partner is a good idea for your health, not to mention that it makes good economic sense. The rest, I leave that to your imagination.

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