Men and women who are married or in long-term relationships are more likely to survive to old age than singletons according to research. Scientists have found that being married, or being in a permanent stable relationship, could lead to a longer life.
Middle-aged people without a spouse or long-term partner were discovered to be at greater risk of premature death than those who were settled down with their other half, they said. So stark was the difference in outcomes that those who never married or settled down with a long-term companion were more than twice more likely to die in middle age than those who had been in a stable relationship throughout their adult life.
Even when personality and risky behaviours were taken into account, marital status continued to have a major impact on survival into old age, researchers from Duke University Medical Center in the US said. The increased emotional support enjoyed by married people was thought to be an important factor in helping them to live to an old age.
Analysing data on 4,802 people born in the 1940s,the authors of the study, published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine journal, said: “Our results suggest that attention to non-marital patterns of partnership is likely to become more important for these baby boomers." These patterns appear to provide different levels of emotional and functional social support, which has been shown to be related to mortality.
“Social ties during midlife are important to help us understand premature mortality.” It is not the first time marriage has been shown to have a beneficial effect on one’s health. The mental health of people with long-term partners has been found to be better than that of singletons. Men and women in relationships for longer than five years are less likely to be depressed, consider or attempt suicide, or be dependent on alcohol or drugs, research has shown previously. A separate study found that being married or in a long-term relationship improves an individual’s ability to deal with stress. Office for National Statistics figures have shown that widowed men and single mothers suffer the worst health, with the greatest number of acute and chronic conditions seen in this group. But the 2011 census found that married and civilly partnered couples make up just 47 per cent of households, down from 51 per cent in 2001. Any single man wanting to act on the latest findings about the correlation between being alone and dying in middle age might want to consider their choice of partner carefully, however.
It has been suggested in one study that a man’s chances of dying early are cut by a fifth if their bride is between 15 and 17 years their junior.