DURHAM, NC, January 10, 2013, ( – Research conducted at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina has found that not being married during midlife is linked to a higher risk of premature death during those midlife years.

The study by Dr. Ilene Siegler and colleagues looked at the effect of marriage history and the timing of marriage on premature death during midlife, taking into account premarital personality traits, socioeconomic status, and health risk behaviors.

The researchers analyzed data for 4,802 individuals who took part in the University of North Carolina Alumni Heart Study (UNCAHS), an ongoing study of individuals born in the 1940s.


While they found that being in a stable marriage during middle age is linked to a lower risk of premature death, they discovered that those who never married were more than twice as likely to die early than those who had been in a stable marriage throughout their adult life.

Being single, or losing a partner without replacement, the researchers found, increased the risk of early death during middle age and reduced the likelihood that one would survive to be elderly.

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Dr. Siegler noted that even when personality and risky behaviors were taken into account, marital status continued to have a major impact on lifespan.

“Our results suggest that attention to non-marital patterns of partnership is likely to become more important for these Baby Boomers. These patterns appear to provide different levels of emotional and functional social support, which has been shown to be related to mortality. Social ties during midlife are important to help us understand premature mortality,” Dr. Siegler concluded.

The study, titled “Consistency and timing of marital transitions and survival during midlife: the role of personality and health risk behaviors,” was published online in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

An abstract is available here.


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