Married people are up to a fifth less likely to die prematurely than those who are not married, a major study suggests.
The researchers analyzed the medical records of half a million people in their 50s in Asia over 15 years.
They found that being married was associated with a 15 percent lower overall risk of death from all causes compared to being unmarried or single people.
And those who got married also had a 20 percent lower risk of dying from accidents, injuries and heart disease.
Men benefited the most from being married, seeing the biggest drops in death rates.
Previous research has also shown that men are less likely to take risks, be involved in accidents, or use alcohol and drugs when they are married.
The new study said the “protective effect” of marriage could also be due to the couple encouraging their spouse to seek medical help and pursue treatment.
Better financial circumstances and healthier lifestyles come with marriage, the researchers say.
‘Happy wife, happy life’ has long been touted as the key to a happy marriage. But now, a study of more than half a million people in their 50s in Asia has found that getting married is also the key to living longer.
In the UK, official figures show that mortality rates among single men and women are up to double that of their married counterparts.
The latest study, conducted by researchers at the Japan National Cancer Center, said previous studies have largely focused on Western populations.
Why is marriage good for health?
Several studies have suggested that marriage is good for people’s health.
In 2010, the World Health Organization found that being married reduced the risk of depression and anxiety compared to single people.
And last year, a study from Aston Medical School in Birmingham found that married people were less likely to have type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
It’s not clear exactly why marriage helps keep people healthier, but experts say it could be because someone has someone else looking out for them.
Professor Rikke Lund, a public health expert at the University of Copenhagen, said: “Various explanations have been suggested, including a healthier lifestyle among married people and faster contact with health services among married people. in case of need”.
American experts have also suggested that single people are more likely to face loneliness or isolation than married people.
And unmarried men are more likely to binge drink, eat unhealthily and engage in risky behavior.
They said that marriages in East Asia have “distinct characteristics”, including the greater likelihood of living with extended family.
The team examined data from 623,140 people, who had an average age of 54, of the Asia Cohort Consortium, a biobank with health data on 1 million people on the continent, as well as their marital status.
The vast majority (86.4%) were married.
Single was defined as people who are single, separated but still married, divorced, or widowed.
A total of 123,264 deaths were recorded during the 15 years of the study.
Most were caused by cancer (41,362), cerebrovascular diseases (14,563) and respiratory diseases (13,583).
The results, published in the journal JAMA Network Open, showed that people who were not married were 12 percent more likely to die from cerebrovascular disease, which includes strokes and aneurysms, than single people.
The mortality rate from coronary heart disease was a fifth (20%) higher.
Singles were 17 percent more likely to die from diseases of the circulatory system, such as heart attacks, heart disease and heart failure.
And they faced a 19 percent increased risk of dying from external causes of death, such as an accident or injury.
A 14 percent increased risk of respiratory diseases, including lung disease and asthma, was also found, as well as a 6 percent increased risk of death from cancer.
Even people with underlying conditions, such as cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure, were more likely to live longer if they were married.
The researchers said that while their study found a correlation, it doesn’t prove cause and effect.
They pointed to several factors that could be playing a role.
People who are poorer and have underlying health problems may be less likely to be selected for marriage in the first place, for example.
They also said their conclusion may not be due to marital status per se, but living with a spouse.
Previous studies have found that people have better health if they live with another person compared to those who live alone.
Further analysis also revealed that women saw much less of a mortality benefit if they were married.
The researchers said this could be because housework is divided unequally in Asian marriages and women face a greater burden of childcare, which “may offset the health benefits of marriage.”
They also suggested that this finding could be because single women are more likely to have a job and thus have more money and better health.