The View from Hell

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Marriage Is Bad For Your Health

with 7 comments

Marriage modestly increases longevity for some men, but may decrease longevity and other common measures of well-being for women and for most men:

From an interview in The Atlantic with Howard S. Friedman, author of The Longevity Project:

One of our longevity myths is “Get married, and you will live longer.” The data tell a different story.

Marriage was health-promoting primarily for men who were well-suited to marriage and had a good marriage. For the rest, there were all kinds of complications.

For example, women who got divorced often thrived. Even women who were widowed often did exceptionally well. It often seemed as if women who got rid of their troublesome husbands stayed healthy—most women, it seemed, can rely on their friends and other social ties. Men who got and stayed divorced, on the other hand, were at really high risk for premature mortality. It would have been better had they not married at all. [Emphasis mine.]

Consequences like these should be kept in mind when we consider policies that promote marriage as an alleged correlate of good outcomes.


Written by Sister Y

March 14, 2011 at 6:57 pm

7 Responses

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  1. “Men who got and stayed divorced, on the other hand, were at really high risk for premature mortality.”

    Obviously, divorced men are not married men. Also, correlation, causation, yadda yadda.

    The Plague Doctor

    March 15, 2011 at 6:11 pm

  2. But the thing is, divorced men were worse off than single non-divorced men. The fact of having attempted marriage dropped life spans.

    Yadda yadda yes, but correlation is relevant to causation. ❤

    Sister Y

    March 15, 2011 at 6:22 pm

  3. I have not read Friedman's original research, but off the top of my head, I'm can think of some ways the causation may also flow in other directions, e.g.:

    1. If a husband gets an illness, unemployment, or other misfortune, the rats will abandon the (relation)ship (a divorce will follow).

    2. Men who are have a higher chance of divorce may make poorer (e.g., more impulsive) life choices which then lead to a shorter life expectancy.

    The Plague Doctor

    March 16, 2011 at 6:45 pm

  4. Yes and yes. These examples are other ways in which marriage is often a very bad decision.

    Sister Y

    March 16, 2011 at 7:22 pm

  5. Well, my point was that something other than the marriage itself may be what causes the poorer life outcomes. Anyway, you don't have to convince me. 🙂

    The Plague Doctor

    March 16, 2011 at 7:45 pm

  6. I second the Plague Doc's caution on this one. The likelihood of confounding factors seems crazy-high.


    March 16, 2011 at 8:11 pm

  7. Perhaps more relevant to the topic of this blog was the finding that “thinking happy thoughts” does not lead to long life, i.e. neuroticism and negative mental states are not pathological but adaptive. In any case, the study was based on the 'Termites', a highly non-representative part of the general population.

    The Plague Doctor

    March 17, 2011 at 6:43 pm

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