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Marriage is good for your health and extends your life! Will You Marry Me?

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Marriage linked to better survival in middle age.Study highlights importance of social ties during midlife. Could marriage, and associated companionship, be one key to a longer life? According to new research, not having a permanent partner, or spouse, during midlife is linked to a higher risk of premature death during those midlife years. The work, by Dr. Ilene Siegler and colleagues from Duke University Medical Center in the US, is published online in Springer’s journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine. Survival through middle age to become elderly is expected; therefore understanding who does not survive to become elderly and why is important. Siegler and colleagues looked at the effect of marriage history and timing of marriage on premature death during midlife. They were also interested in testing the role of pre-marital personality and quantifying the role of health behaviors.The researchers analyzed data for 4,802 individuals who took part in the University of North Carolina Alumni Heart Study (UNCAHS) – an ongoing study of individuals born in the 1940s. The authors were particularly interested in stability and change in patterns of marital and non-marital status during midlife, controlling for personality at college entry (average age 18), socioeconomic status and health risk behaviors. They found that having a partner

during middle age is protective against premature death: those who never married were more than twice as likely to die early than those who had been in a stable marriage throughout their adult life. Being single, or losing a partner without replacement, increased the risk of early death during middle age and reduced the likelihood that one would survive to be elderly. Even when personality and risky behaviors were taken into account, marital status continued to have a major impact on survival.The authors conclude: “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.” Siegler IC et al. – 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. Background: Marital status is associated with survival.Purpose: The aims of this study are to evaluate marital history and timing on mortality during midlife, test the role of pre-marital personality, and quantify the role of health risk behaviors.Methods: Cox proportional hazard models were run with varying classifications of marital history and sets of covariates. Results: In fully adjusted models compared to the currently married, lifetime marital history predicts premature mortality with never married at 2.33 times risk of death and ever married at 1.64 risk of death. Midlife marital history shows that not having a partner during midlife (hazard ratio (HR) = 3.10 formerly married; HR = 2.59 remaining single) has the highest risk of death. Controlling for personality and health risk behaviors reduces but does not eliminate the impact of marital status.Conclusion:Consistency of marital status during midlife suggests that lack of a partner is associated with midlife mortality. News from: Annals of Behavioral Medicine & Duke University School of Medicine


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