Marriage and Life Expectancy Span
Synopsis: The downside of marriage for women as the greater a woman's age gap with her husband, the lower her life expectancy. 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. It's not that women couldn't find younger partners; the majority just don't want to. It is also doubtful that older wives benefit psychologically and socially from a younger husband.
- Life Expectancy
Life expectancy is a statistical measure of the average time an organism is expected to live, based on the year of its birth, its current age, and other demographic factors like sex. The heritability of lifespan is estimated to be less than 10%, meaning the majority of lifespan variation is attributable to environmental differences rather than genetic variation. However, researchers have identified regions of the genome that can influence the length of life and the number of years in good health.
Marriage is more beneficial for men than 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 more significant the age difference between 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.
Researchers have thought this data holds for both sexes for years. They assumed an effect called "health selection" was in play; those who select younger partners can 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, 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 the same age; an older husband shortens her life, and a younger one, even more, so.
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 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. "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.
Women don't benefit from 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 normal, these couples could be regarded as outsiders and receive less social support. This could result in a less joyful and stressful life, reduced health, and increased mortality.
While the new MPIDR study shows that marriage disadvantages most women when they are not the same age as their husbands, it is not true that marriage, in general, is unfavorable. Being married raises the life expectancy of both men and women above those unmarried. Women are also generally better off than men; worldwide, their life expectancy exceeds that of men by a few years.
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock (MPIDR) investigates the structure and dynamics of populations. It focuses on issues of political relevance such as demographic change, aging, fertility, the redistribution of work throughout life, and aspects of evolutionary biology and medicine. The MPIDR is one of Europe's largest demographic research bodies and one of the worldwide leaders in the field. It is part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German Research Society.
Resources That Provide Relevant Information
- Calculate Age in Days Weeks Months Since Birth - Find out how many days you have been alive, what day of the week you were born on, and how long you have lived in days weeks months and years since your birthdate.
- Biological Age Calculator: Check Your True Health Age - Real age calculator provides longevity information and calculates your approximate health age or biological age, as well as your estimated life expectancy.
- Average Life Span Expectancy Chart - How Long Will I Live - How long will I live for is a chart and picture graph of male and female life span expectant averages by country and average age to death.
- Married and Degree Educated Males Have High Probability of Outliving Females - Men have a high probability of outliving women, especially those who are married and have a degree, reveals a statistical analysis.
This peer reviewed article relating to our Offbeat News section was selected for publishing by the editors of Disabled World due to its likely interest to our disability community readers. Though the content may have been edited for style, clarity, or length, the article "Marriage and Life Expectancy Span" was originally written by Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, and published by Disabled-World.com on 2010-05-12 (Updated: 2022-08-03). Should you require further information or clarification, Max-Planck-Gesellschaft can be contacted at demogr.mpg.de. Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith.
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Disabled World is an independent disability community founded in 2004 to provide disability news and information to people with disabilities, seniors, their family and/or carers. See our homepage for informative reviews, exclusive stories and how-tos. You can connect with us on social media such as X.com and our Facebook page.
Disabled World provides general information only. The materials presented are never meant to substitute for qualified professional medical care, nor should they be construed as such. Funding is derived from advertisements or referral programs. Any 3rd party offering or advertising does not constitute an endorsement.