Similarly, those who had previously been married but were no longer married when entering midlife were also found to face a relatively elevated risk for death (1.64 times the risk of married individuals).
The researchers said the findings held constant even after accounting for all the personality, behavioral and health-related risk factors that might theoretically affect death risk.
They suggested that "chronic loneliness" could be one key element, among others, driving the mortality boost, a phenomenon they said it will be increasingly important to get a handle on as the population ages.
While Markie Blumer, an assistant professor with the marriage and family therapy program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said the research is "solid," she cautioned against "putting all our eggs in the basket of marriage."
"As a clinician, this helps me realize that when I'm working with baby boomers, as couples or as individuals, I need to make sure they have good social support," she noted. "At the same time, this study has many limitations, some of which the authors acknowledge, and all of which are important to consider when you are sending out the message that you need to rely on your spouse for your health, or that that's where your health comes from. Because for people who are single or had a partner who's since died I think that message can be very dangerous."
Blumer pointed to the lack of ethnic and socioeconomic diversity in the study sample; the lack of consideration given to parental history in terms of marriage; the insufficient discussion of the role of cohabitation outside of marriage; or the critical role played by friends and children in terms of providing non-spousal social support. And she described the study's male-centric focus as particularly "problematic," given that "other studies show that while married men live longer and are happier, married women do not. So, women n
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