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Having a Spouse in Middle Age Reduces Risk of Premature Death

Update Date: Jan 11, 2013 07:38 AM EST

For many of us, there is a stage in life when we really look forward to getting married and perhaps having a family, while at other times we are running away from the responsibilities of getting married and having a family. While many people are not married by choice, for many others, it's destiny. No matter what the situation, we all like to have a partner, even if it is for the time-being or temporary.

A new study suggests that not having a permanent partner or spouse during midlife is linked to a higher risk of premature death during those midlife years.

The study, by Dr. Ilene Siegler and colleagues from Duke University Medical Center in the U.S., aimed at understanding who does not survive to become elderly and why.

For the study, the researchers looked at the effect of marriage history and its timing on the premature deaths during midlife. The researchers also wanted to see the significance of the role of premarital personality and wanted to quantify the role of health behaviors, Medical Xpress reported.

They studied data for 4,802 individuals and studied the stability and change in patterns of marital and non-marital status during midlife, and considered factors like personality at college entry (average age 18), socioeconomic status and health risk behaviors.

The findings of the study revealed that the presence of a partner during middle age protects people against premature death. The researchers found that people who never married had more than double the risk of an early death when compared to those who were in a stable marriage throughout their adult life.

Also, it seems that being single or losing a partner without replacement further escalated the risk of premature death. The study says that in spite of taking factors like personality and risky behaviors into consideration, marital status continued to have a major impact on survival.

"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," the authors conclude.

The study is published online in Springer's journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

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