Saturday, August 12, 2006

Singledom kills you

People who have never married run a significantly higher risk of dying early, even though they are more likely to exercise and less likely to be overweight in later life. A study of census and death certification data for more than 67,000 American adults has revealed that those who stayed single were more likely to die first, while a surviving marriage was strongly associated with a longer life.

The scientists, from the University of California, suggest that the findings show that marriage is a rough proxy for social connectedness, while a life without it is more closely associated with isolation.

The data, covering the years from 1989 to 1997, showed that at the start almost 50 per cent were married and just under 10 per cent were widowed. A total of 12 per cent were divorced and 3 per cent were separated. Of the remainder, 5 per cent were cohabiting, and one in five had never married. After taking into account age, health and several other factors likely to influence the findings, scientists found that those people who had been widowed were almost 40 per cent more likely to die over the eight-year period. Those who had been divorced or separated were 27 per cent more likely to have done so.

However, those who had never been married were 58 per cent more likely to have died during the period than peers who were married and living with their spouse in 1989. The never-married "penalty" was larger for those in very good or excellent health, and smallest for those in poor health. It was also found to be greater among men than women. The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, covered a range of age groups, from 19 to 24-year-olds to pensioners.

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