New research has found that people who are unmarried have a considerably higher risk of dying early, even though they tend to exercise regularly, and may not be overweight especially later on in their life.
The study conducted by the scientists, Robert Kaplan and Richard Kronick, of the University of California, had involved the census and death certification data of around 67, 000 adults in the US. The study had shown that there was a higher ratio of death among the single, while a successful, surviving marriage had showed a longer life. The researchers had suggested that marriage could act as a vague substitute for social connectedness, while a life without it is more strongly associated with isolation.
The researchers writing in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health explained that their data had covered a range of age groups, from 19 to 24-year-olds to pensioners, during the years from 1989 to 1997. The study had showed that at the start almost 50% were married and just fewer than 10% were widowed. They further stated that 12% were divorced and 3% were separated and of the remaining 5% of them were living together, and 1 in 5 had never married. The researchers explained that they also took into account age, health and several other factors that were likely to influence the findings.
Scientists stated that they found that those people who had been widowed were almost 40% more likely to die over the eight-year period, and those who had been divorced or separated were 27% more likely. They also noted that those who had never been married were 58% more likely to have died during the period as compared to those people who were married and living with their spouses. They also found that the penalty for not marrying was more for those in very good or excellent health, and least for those in poor health, and the study also found that it was greater among men than women.
The researchers explained that in the younger age group, the main causes of death among those who had never married were infectious disease like Aids, and other factors like accidents. They also found that cardiovascular and chronic diseases were among the main probable causes among the middle-aged group. Explaining that unmarried men were more likely to die early than their women counterparts, they also said that men between the ages of 19 to 44 who were unmarried were twice as likely to die earlier when compared to the men of the same age who were married.
Prof Kaplan had explained that evidence suggests that social isolation could increase the risk of premature death. He said, "Marriage is a rough proxy for social connectedness. Among categories on being unmarried, we suggest that having never married may be associated with more severe isolation because it is associated with greater isolation from children and other family."
Mary Toner, the chief executive of the charity Scottish Marriage Care, was of the opinion that the result of the study clearly shows that the protection is offered by a stable relationship or marriage. She said, "I would argue that good healthy marriages and relationships are enriching, and we would agree that an isolated lifestyle can be damaging."