For better or worse?

Why women who marry younger men die earlier

(Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The common wisdom for years was that being married meant a longer (and happier) life, and that those men who married younger women lived even longer. But in a time of changing demographics and attitudes towards relationships, The Guardian wondered whether that still held true. An influential study by German demographer Sven Drefahl which came out in 2010, looking at Denmark’s population data, found that people with older partners die at a younger age, which is also true for women who date younger men. The only group that saw an increased average lifespan were the men with younger spouses.

In later research, Drefahl looked at why women with younger partners did not enjoy the same advantage and found that the women in these group were more likely to die of “external causes,” i.e. accidents that are not suicides. There are various possible explanations for why that is: women who enjoy doing dangerous activities could also be the kind of women who marry younger men, or might be encouraged to do more risky things (mountaineering holidays, for example) by their younger spouses. Another explanation The Guardian offers up, while not supported by any scientific research, is that the way society treats women who go against social norms by marrying a younger man might “somehow be prompting these women to take bigger physical risks.”

Drefahl also looked at the advantages of being married for Danish heterosexual couples, and found that those are inextricably tied to class: those lower on the social ladder and with less income live longer when married, while there is little to no difference for people with an average socioeconomic status. Those on the highest echelons of income and social status, however, generally lived longer when they were cohabiting than if they were married.

While that might go against studies regularly published by conservative institutions in the U.S., claiming that marriage is overall better than cohabitation, there is relatively few information on how this varies in  politically and socially different communities.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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