Show: August 1, 2010:
Checkup: Marriage Increases Life Expectancy, Usually
When it comes to health, thereís a lot to be said for the institution of marriage. Study after study has shown that married people live longer than people who are single.
But not all marriages are equal, and partners to a marriage donít always benefit equally when it comes to longevity. In fact, according to a recent study out of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany, husbands and wives can fare quite differently.
For example, men who marry much younger women tend to increase their life expectancy. But the same does not hold for women marrying younger men. Women who pair up with men seven to nine years their junior tend to die sooner.
Why? The study doesnít really say. For an expert opinion, I spoke with Margy Davis-Minton, a therapist who specializes in marriage and couples counseling.
"This is a hunch, and my hunch is that because men donít tend to be caregivers, when women become incapacitated, they tend to still do most of the work around the home or the caring for their partner and that they may not get the healthcare services they need as quickly."
Consequently, Davis-Minton says, as they age, older women may be left to fend for themselves.
Some men are good caregivers, of course. And not all women married to younger men are doomed to an early death. In fact, among her clients, Davis-Minton doesnít see age as the most important factor for a healthy and happy relationship.
"The problems that they have in their relationship are not so much dependent on age as they are on skills for problem solving, ability to have safety in their relationship, commitment, shared values. Those tend to be factors that dictate whether a marriage is successful or not vs. the age differential."