Perceiving marriage as successful may help husbands live longer

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Symptoms of a Stroke

Want your husband to live longer? A new study suggests he should believe your marriage is successful.

The study, led by researchers from the School of Public Health at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, showed that perceiving marriage as unsuccessful was a significant predictor of death from stroke and premature death among men. The study was based on health data from more than 30 years of research that tracked the deaths of 10,000 Israeli men.

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The researchers conducted statistical analyses of a database that began gathering info in the 1960s and, for 32 years, tracked 10,000 male Israeli state employees. At the beginning of the study, most of the participants were in their 40s. Since then, 64% have died from a range of illnesses.

“We wanted to analyze the data gathered longitudinally using various parameters to identify behavioral and psychosocial risk factors that can predict death from a CVA and premature death for any reason,” said Dr. Shahar Lev-Ari, head of the Department of Health Promotion at Tel Aviv University. CVA stands for cerebrovascular accident, also known as a stroke.

Participants were asked at the onset of the study to rank their level of marriage satisfaction on a scale of 1 (marriage is very successful) to 4 (marriage is unsuccessful).

The researchers said they were surprised to find their analysis showed this scale was a predictive factor of life expectancy, very similar to smoking and lack of physical activity.

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For example, the number of men who died from a stroke was 69% higher among those who ranked their marriage satisfaction at 4 compared to those who ranked their marriage satisfaction at 1.

“Our study shows that the quality of marriage and family life has health implications for life expectancy. Men who reported they perceived their marriage as failure died younger than those who experienced their marriages as very successful,” Lev-Ari said. “In other words, the level of satisfaction with marriage has emerged as a predictive factor for life expectancy at a rate comparable with smoking (smokers versus non-smokers) and physical activity (activity versus inactivity). Furthermore, it’s important to note that we observed a higher risk among relatively young men, under the age of 50. At a higher age, the gap is smaller, perhaps due to processes of adjustment that life partners go through over time. These findings were consistent with other studies that have shown the effectiveness of educational programs fostering good life partnerships as part of a national strategy to promote health and wellness for the public at large.”

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You can read the full study in the Journal of Clinical Medicine.

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