Married, with longevity

More on married people living longer.

A new article by Michael Rendall and colleagues offers a “review and update” on the survival advantage apparently conferred by marriage in the U.S. From the abstract:

The theory that marriage has protective effects for survival has itself lived for more than 100 years since Durkheim’s groundbreaking study of suicide. Investigations of differences in this protective effect by gender, by age, and in contrast to different unmarried statuses, however, have yielded inconsistent conclusions. … Using large-scale pooled panel survey data linked to death registrations and earnings histories for U.S. men and women aged 25 and older, and with appropriate contrast tests, we find a consistent survival advantage for married over unmarried men and women, and an additional survival “premium” for married men.

The figure shows that men and women who aren’t married are more likely to die, although the advantage declines with age. Also, the marriage benefit is greater for men than for women (the different curved lines show the advantage calculated with increasingly stringent statistical controls):

Can’t make a link that works, but here’s the info: “The Protective Effect of Marriage for Survival: A Review and Update,” by Michael S. Rendall, Margaret M. Weden, Melissa M. Favreault & Hilary Waldron. Demography (2011) 48:481–506; DOI 10.1007/s13524-011-0032-5.

In an earlier post, “Who needs marriage?“, I described a good suicide study, showing marriage seems to protect men from themselves, but especially compared with widowed and divorced men:

Source: My figure from Table 2 in Richard Rogers, Patrick Krueger and Tim Wadsworth, “Adult Suicide Mortality in the United States: Marital Status, Family Size, Socioeconomic Status, and Differences by Sex,” Social Science Quarterly, 2009 (90[5]:1167-85).

I wrote then:

Sociologists have always considered suicide to be the gold standard measure of psychological wellbeing. And marriage has historically been a key indicator of social integration, the source of belongingness that makes suicide less likely. Although Bernard believed that, with regard to suicide, marriage is more protective of men than of women, recent research has been more equivocal. Now, however, we have a good long-term study with a large U.S. sample that tests this, and finds that, as suspected, marriage protects men more than women from themselves.

2 thoughts on “Married, with longevity

  1. Okay, now I wanna know why men’s rate of suicide is so high after being widowed but women’s actually DROPS. What’s going on there? (That’s an honest question, I’m no sociologist, I was just raised by one).


  2. I am not sure, but I believe the high suicide among widowed men has to do with the tendency within couples for women to have responsibility for maintaining the social ties, leaving men less able to cope when they are widowed. Also, it occurs to me that because women live longer, it’s less normal for men to be widowed, so the role may be less well established. So that all seems possible. As for the lower rates between women who are widowed versus those who are divorced, I wouldn’t put much stock in it since the difference is relatively small.


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