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Helen Smith

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July 31, 2012 - 11:38 am

I was reading an article on the 7 health risks for men over 40 and one of them was “being single”:

Numerous surveys have shown that married men, especially men in their 50s, 60s, and 70s, are healthier and have lower death rates than those who never married or who are divorced or widowed. Never-married men are three times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease, for example. After 50, divorced men’s health deteriorates rapidly compared to married men’s, found a RAND Center for the Study of Aging report.

What’s the magic in the ring? The social connectedness of marriage may lower stress levels and depression, which lead to chronic illness. (Women tend to have more social ties outside of marriage.)

Oops: Unmarried men generally have poorer health habits, too — they drink more, eat worse, get less medical care, and engage in more risky behaviors (think drugs and promiscuous sex). Exception: It’s better to be single than in a strained relationship, probably because of the stress toll, say researchers in Student BMJ.

Maybe the older men who stayed married had wives who didn’t cause as much stress, hence the better health. The thing is, as marriage becomes more stressful for younger men, is it better to stay single for your health?

Another thought: Men are living longer than ever and marrying less and less often, is there a connection?

Helen Smith is a psychologist specializing in forensic issues in Knoxville, Tennessee, and blogs at Dr. Helen.
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