Thursday, May 14, 2009

Married people live longer: I found this University of Pennsylvania life expectancy calculator. It asks a long list of questions, most of them about health. You might not expect marriage to make any difference among all the other factors like smoking and family history of disease. But it does. I answered all the questions and varied whether I spent most of my life married or not. I gained two years of life being married. It might be more or less of a difference for you. Try it out.

13 comments:

ironrailsironweights said...

According to the calculator I have a life expectancy of 86.6 years, but if I weren't married it would be 86.2 years. Not too much of a difference.

Peter

Ron Guhname said...

Peter: Dammit, you're healthier than I am. Marriage probably helps half-ass people like me more.

Ron Guhname said...

I suspect much of the benefit is diet. I eat much more nutritious food when my wife is home.

BGC said...

Of course this is classic territory for correlation versus causation confusions.

Since women select healthier men for marriage (because unhealthy men may lack jobs/ wealth, may be housebound or hospitalized etc), then married men are healthier than unmarried.

But these men would live longer whether or not they married.

Ron Guhname said...

BGC: Right, it could simply be selection bias. But at the same time, it makes sense that marriage has a civilizing effect on men, and health could be one part of this.

Anonymous said...

Old joke:


Do you know why men die before their wives?


A: Because they want to

Blode0322 said...

I'm thinking some data on obesity might help this out. I gather that, like a lot of health problems, obesity will reduce lifespan and marriageability. Then again, I don't think lifespan is going to make it into the GSS....
:)

Sgt. Joe Friday said...

Anon. - Actually, the joke is why do Jewish men die before their wives?

Jason Malloy said...

Since women select healthier men for marriage (because unhealthy men may lack jobs/ wealth, may be housebound or hospitalized etc), then married men are healthier than unmarried.Decent longitudinal studies often find the opposite selection effect; that is that less healthy men are more likely to opt for marriage, and are less likely to divorce. They have the most to gain.

Wilson and Oswald's review of longitudinal data on marriage suggests that marriage really does cause mental and physical health benefits.


I suspect much of the benefit is diet. I eat much more nutritious food when my wife is home.It's not a matter of women taking care of men. Studies show men and women benefit equally from marriage.

Also, I think married people may actually get fatter (which may or may not be less healthy) and exercise less (definitely less healthy).

There are a number of reasons for the health boost. People with strong social bonds have better immunity, less stress, less cognitive deterioration. Married people take less risks and are less likely to die of accidents. They are more likely to have health insurance (e.g. through spouse's employment plan) and go to the doctor earlier when there is a problem (because the spouse cajoles them). They are less likely to smoke and drink and therefore die of lung and liver problems. They have significantly less depression and are less likely to die of suicide.

Jason Malloy said...

Dang, I forgot to use the formatting hack.

Ron Guhname said...

Jason Malloy: Great info.

ironrailsironweights said...

Also, I think married people may actually get fatter (which may or may not be less healthy) and exercise less (definitely less healthy)..
.
.
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That is absolutely true with men. It is very common for formerly fit men to pork up something wicked after marriage, especially after age 35 or so, and to stop all physical activity except cartball. Women seem more likely to stay concerned with diet and fitness.

Peter

BGC said...

Jason Malloy - Thanks for the links.

I wonder - when there are so many factors affected by marriage, and working in different directions - whether the overall balance health benefit versus health harm of marriage might vary between societies and at different points in history?

i.e. it could be that whether marriage is good or bad for your health may be context dependent.

My point about the selection effect was taken from memories of studies which I read about 15plus years ago, many of which were looking at UK marriage over the preceding decades. What was apparently true of that time and place may not be true of other times and places.