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Marriage And Life Expectancy – Men Benefit More From Marriage

Figure Age At MarriageMarriage is more beneficial for men than for women – at least for those who want a long life. Previous studies have shown that men with younger wives live longer. While it had long been assumed that women with younger husbands also live longer, in a new study Sven Drefahl from the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock, Germany, has shown that this is not the case. Instead, the greater the age difference from the husband, the lower the wife’s life expectancy. This is the case irrespective of whether the woman is younger or older than her spouse.

Related to life expectancy choosing a wife is easy for men – the younger the better. The mortality risk of a husband who is seven to nine years older than his wife is reduced by eleven percent compared to couples where both partners are the same age. Conversely, a man dies earlier when he is younger than his spouse.

For years, researchers have thought that this data holds true for both sexes. They assumed an effect called “health selection” was in play; those who select younger partners are able to do so because they are healthier and thus already have a higher life expectancy. It was also thought that a younger spouse has a positive psychological and social effect on an older partner and can be a better caretaker in old age, thereby helping to extend the partner’s life.

“These theories now have to be reconsidered”, says Sven Drefahl from MPIDR. “It appears that the reasons for mortality differences due to the age gap of the spouses remain unclear.” Using data from almost two million Danish couples, Drefahl was able to eliminate the statistical shortcomings of earlier research, and showed that the best choice for a woman is to marry a man of exactly the same age; an older husband shortens her life, and a younger one even more so (see figure 1).

Figure 1

(click to enlarge) Figure 1: Age Gap to Spouse A woman's life expectancy is shorter the greater the age difference from her husband, irrespective of whether she is younger or older than him. However, the younger his wife, the longer a man lives. Women marrying a partner seven to nine years younger increase their mortality risk by 20 percent compared to couples where both partners are the same age. But the mortality risk of a husband who is seven to nine years older than his wife is reduced by eleven percent. (Source: Sven Drefahl)

According to Drefahl’s study, published May 12th in the journal Demography, women marrying a partner seven to nine years younger increase their mortality risk by 20 percent. Hence, “health selection” can’t be true for women; healthy women apparently don’t go chasing after younger men. While many studies on mate selection show that women mostly prefer men the same age, most of them end up with an older husband. In the United States, on average a groom is 2.3 years older than his bride. (see figure 2). “It’s not that women couldn’t find younger partners; the majority just don’t want to”, says Sven Drefahl.

(click to enlarge) Figure 2: Age at Marriage in the USA Young wives wanted: in the United States a groom is 2.3 years older than his bride (average from 1947 to 2009). The mean age of marriage fell until World War II and has been rising ever since. In 2009 it was 28.1 years for men and 25.9 years for women. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

It is also doubtful that older wives benefit psychologically and socially from a younger husband. This effect only seems to work for men. “On average, men have fewer and lesser quality social contacts than those of women,” says Sven Drefahl. Thus, unlike the benefits of a younger wife, a younger husband wouldn’t help extend the life of his older wife by taking care of her, going for a walk with her and enjoying late life together. She already has friends for that. The older man, however, doesn’t.

This means that women don’t benefit by having a younger partner, but why does he shorten their lives? “One of the few possible explanations is that couples with younger husbands violate social norms and thus suffer from social sanctions,” says Sven Drefahl. Since marrying a younger husband deviates from what is regarded as normal, these couples could be regarded as outsiders and receive less social support. This could result in a less joyful and more stressful life, reduced health, and finally, increased mortality.

While the new MPIDR study shows that marriage disadvantages most women when they are not the same age as their husband, it is not true that marriage in general is unfavourable. Being married raises the life expectancy of both men and women above those that are unmarried. Women are also generally better off than men; worldwide their life expectancy exceeds that of men by a few years.

Material adapted from Max-Planck-Gesellschaft by CFisher.


One Response to Marriage And Life Expectancy – Men Benefit More From Marriage

  1. avatar
    Rick ( May 12, 2013 at 2:17 AM #

    Correction women live longer in marriage not men. Everybody is now looking through the correct window but from the wrong side! The average doctor might have the best interest of his patients but there is great profit from dumbed down sheep coming to the health care corporations for medical service repeatedly. Anyway what the medical community fails to understand is that fasting gets rid of the fat (foam residue) in the synaptic transmitting channels located between every two neurons which then makes the brain work more efficiently! Longevity is not in only some specific genes of only some people. It is in the genes of everybody and it is slightly different for everyone as we are all unique. It is a collection of different genes for different people just as a street people we take to get downtown. It all depends where you live in relationship to the center of the city. Anyway it is only recently that science has been able to compete with religion on this topic. Just look at all the ancients prophets in every culture and religions. They were outliving the general population by at least 50 years with the exception of those who revealed themselves by speaking out and got crucified for it. The brain is key, it is the control center that activates longevity and ultra intelligence-wisdom as well.

    Many others think it is linked to gender. However, this is based on needs. Those with lots of temptation for simpler needs do not live long. Sex (reproduction) is a simpler but necessary need. It is on Maslow’s first tier. As we move up on Maslow’s from the simpler needs you will live longer. Women are initially start out smarter than men but most eventually catch and and at least temporarily surpass females in intelligence then the two alternate as the move up the charts. It is nature’s way of balancing the two competing genders within the species. Still we are forget on how the brain works within each gender. Bell curve statistics- Most women’s brains are wired for a short term higher sensitivity quick impulse responses while most men are most men are wired for long term data caching.

    In the female mind the active neurons are set up as a few densely pack clusters for each of the senses spread throughout the brain which makes them very sensitive to information immediately (this is call emotion processing) while in the male brain the active neurons are set up in an array of many more but much smaller neuron clusters spread out over the entire brain. This make the male thought process less sensitive but he has better sequential or predictive abilities, this is call logic. Men will absorb it slow and then eventually understand most of it while women
    initially go through something like an impulse or neuro shock as their brain tries to handle massive input then gradually after some filter out do the emotions subside.

    Most women get overwhelmed initially and are less predictive until their mind goes through a “spiritual” awakening process which for many happens during and right after giving birth. Males are better at predictive and long-term analysis. Still women live longer because plenty of the statistics are based on the numbers obtained from the uneducated masses where many wives stay at home while the men have hard laboring and dangerous jobs. Basically you hardly ever read stories about a single woman being found alive who was living by herself in a jungle or forest but you do find stories of men living like this for decades.

    The brain is key, it is the control center that activates longevity and ultra intelligence-wisdom as well. Here is more in depth if anyone is interested.

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