The most incisive guide to issues facing the American family today . . . An invaluable resource for anyone wishing to stay on the cutting edge of research on family trends.

-W. Bradford Wilcox
Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia 

Long Life: Money, Matriculation, or Marriage?


Bryce J. Christensen and Robert W. Patterson


What life circumstances are most important in fostering longevity? When researchers at the University of West Virginia Medical School set out to answer this question, they focused primarily on education and household income as statistical predictors of long life, finally concluding that household income matters, more than does educational attainment, as a safeguard against premature death. However, the researchers bumped into another significant predictor of longevity: namely, marital status. For despite all of the cultural and social changes surrounding wedlock in recent decades, the latest data still show that married men and women live significantly longer than do their single peers.

After poring over data collected from a national probability sample of 15,646 men and women ages 20 and older, the researchers discern clear evidence that “income may be a stronger predictor of mortality than education.” However, their data also indicate that “being never married” was “positively associated with all-cause mortality” (Odds Ratio, 1.34; p = 0.03). Apparently leaving the divorced in an “others” category, the researchers documented an even more sharply elevated all-cause mortality risk for this group, exposed to mortality risks without the protection of an intact marriage (Odds Ratio, 1.48; p = 0.05).

A college diploma may offer some protection against premature death, and an ample bank account may afford even more such protection. But Americans who forego wedding vows are running a real risk—regardless of their educational or financial advantages—of early death.

(Charumathi Sabanayagam and Anoop Shankar, “Income Is a Stronger Predictor of Mortality than Education in a National Sample of U.S. Adults,” Journal of Health, Population, and Nutrition 30.1 [March 2012]: 82–86.)

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