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A marriage tip for Baby Boomers who want to live longer

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Longer life is tied to marriage in middle-age, especially for Baby Boomers

New research suggests living a longer life might depend on whether or not you’re married in midlife. According to the finding, Baby Boomer survival might depend on being in a stable marriage during middle-age.

The study is relevant to public health, according to the authors. Marriage provides social support that researchers say is important for the health of Baby Boomers that make up a large segment of the US population.

Dr. Ilene Siegler and colleagues from Duke University Medical Center in the US, is published online in Springer's journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

Siegler explains transitioning from middle-age to senior life is an expectation. The researchers for the study wanted to understand what happens to people who die in midlife and what effect marriage has on health behaviors.

Past studies have suggested being married boosts longevity, especially for men. Having a spouse and children might reduce risky behaviors like smoking and drinking, but the exact reasons men who are married live longer hasn’t become entirely clear.

For their study, investigators looked at 4,802 people born in the 1940s who took part in the University of North Carolina Alumni Heart Study (UNCAHS).

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A focus of the researchers was marital status in midlife, personality of the participants during their college years, health behaviors and socioeconomic status.

The finding showed people who were never married had twice the risk of dying in middle age, compared to those who had a stable marriage during their adult life.

Longer life linked to marital status regardless health behaviors and personality

Loss of a partner through divorce or death and staying single was associated with higher chance of not living long enough to become elderly, even after taking other factors into account including health behaviors and personality.

The authors concluded: “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."

The study suggests marriage could boost the chances of living a long life and is especially important as we transition to middle-age. It’s also important to know an unhappy marriage is likely to have the opposite effect, especially for women who have been shown to have higher risk of heart disease from strained marital relationships.

Siegler IC et al (2012). Consistency and timing of marital transitions and survival during midlife: the role of personality and health risk behaviors. Annals of Behavioral Medicine
DOI 10.1007/s12160-012-9457-3
January 10, 2013

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