Washington: Could marriage and associated companionship be a key to a longer life? According to a new research, the answer is yes.

Not having a permanent partner, or spouse, during midlife is linked to a higher risk of premature death during those midlife years, researchers say.

The study by Dr Ilene Siegler and colleagues from Duke University Medical Center, US looked at the effect of marriage history and timing of marriage on premature death during midlife.

They were also interested in testing the role of pre-marital personality and quantifying the role of health behaviours. The researchers analysed 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, a press release said.

The authors were particularly interested in stability and change in patterns of marital and non-marital status during midlife, controlling for personality at college entry (average age 18), socio-economic status and health risk behaviours. They found that having a partner during middle age is protective against premature death: 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, increased the risk of early death during middle age and reduced the likelihood that one would survive to be elderly. Even when personality and risky behaviours were taken into account, marital status continued to have a major impact on survival.


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