Marriage Leads to A Longer Life! Come Join Me All You Singles!

There is a very old joke that goes something like this…”Married men live longer than single men…or maybe it just feels that way.”  Of course, being happily married, still my first, for quite a number of years, I can attest to the opposite – I feel great!

Now a new review of studies questions what singlehood brings to the table.  It says that, while singles may tout the benefits of their lifestyle, longevity is probably not one of them.

Researchers from the University of Louisville in Kentucky analyzed 90 past studies on the subject, and found that men who stay single may die eight to 17 years before married men, while women who stay single may die seven to 15 years before married women. Researchers said this could be attributed to the fact that there is more social support and public assistance for married couples. For example, a recent study showed that married men manage to get to a hospital for a heart attack sooner than single men.  Obviously there is someone complaining in the background that “you never want to go to the doctor!  You are going this time Mister!”

According to the new review in the American Journal of Epidemiology, single men have a 32 percent higher risk of death over their lifetimes compared with married men, while single women have a 23 percent higher risk of death over their lifetimes than married women.

A number of caveats and questions have been raised about the findings.

  1. The researchers looked at studies conducted on the subject that were published over the last 60 years.
  2. The analysis doesn’t take into account the impact of a bad marriage on longevity, certainly a negative contributor to health.
  3. The review of studies also only defined married people as people who remained married throughout their lives, not divorced or widowed people who were at once married but then became single. [However, a study of 67,000 Americans from 2006 showed that single people still tend to die sooner than widowed, divorced and separated people, in addition to married people.]

Since readers expect my blogs to contain some local data in the mix, allow me to provide some marital statistics.  These data represent residents of the 6-county (Lapeer, Livingston, Macomb, Oakland, St. Clair and Wayne) Detroit metropolitan area.  I decided to also use an age range of 25-64 years of age for my analysis.  I figured that those under 25 years are still looking and those who have made it to 65 years and beyond have done a good bit of living either married or single.

Looking at the numbers (see Table 1), we can see that, while the share of divorced residents went up slightly between 2000 and 2009, the real change occurred in the shift between the ‘now married’ and ‘single, never married’ categories.

 Table 1.  Marital Status of Persons 25 – 64 Years of Age in Metropolitan Detroit

The share of single, never married males showed a significant increase, growing beyond 1 of every 4 in 2009, while their married counterparts decreased toward the 50 percent mark.

While a smaller share of women are single, never married (though they are much more likely to be single due to divorce or widowhood), that share still grew at a rate similar to that of males and now number 1 of every 4.  Combined with the other ‘single’ categories, the share of married females 25 to 64 years of age equals that for males.

The trend is clear – singlehood is growing in metro Detroit.  Will this lead to a decrease in years of life expectancy?  Stay tuned.  D3 will be there to track it.

Just remember:  Whether single or married, experts still say that life expectancy can be extended through exercise, staying positive, eating more fiber and having a friendly workplace.