Exercise for Readers: Do married men live longer?

On a recent post, blog reader Don commented:

I once asked a question about the absurdity of women expecting their husbands to pay for a life time of her expenses just because they love them by forcing ideals of marriage. I got similar responses from Feminists. One even suggested that men live longer in marriages. Like that is going to offset the loss of money due to paying her expenses for a lifetime.

I have highlighted an interesting statement.

Unfortunately, the average person has a rather poor understanding of causation and correlation. I’m curious what my readers think. So, think about why the statement in bold letters may be wrong. In case it isn’t completely obvious: the implication is that men live longer because they are married. Just based on logic alone, this is a dubious statement without further supporting information. Can you figure out why?

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below, but keep the comment policy in mind.
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12 thoughts on “Exercise for Readers: Do married men live longer?

  1. If someone’s wife dies while married, it’s probably not likely he will remarry before dying himself, counting as “single”. I believe people who have gone through divorces or are widows are grouped into the “unmarried” statistics, who are also people who have experienced obvious stress in their lives which can lead to an earlier death. There’s also the fact that being married really hasn’t much difference than dying while in a relationship, and probably aren’t part of any useful statistics.

    Not sure if that answers it, but I gave it a shot.

    1. That’s an interesting approach! My refutation of the claim in the post is a bit different, though. I’ll share it at some later point in time.

  2. Ok, I’ll play. I would assume that there are three primary reasons.

    1. Men that are better educated and with higher income (I would assume) have a higher likelyhood of finding a mate to marry. Meaning that the married-men category likely has a higher education and income level-average, compared with the “not married” group.
    Higher education and income is correlated with better health (likely as a result of both being more educated about healthy choices/healthy lifestyle and also they as a group likely have better self control and simply are “better” at making more optimal chioces. The cause then being difference in sosio-economic-status and intelligence.

    2. Men that do crazy risky shit, meaning men in the higher OR lower end of testosterone levels- on average likely die younger then men in general. Men with lower testosterone likley get married less because they likely are in general considered less attractive. Men with high testosterone likely get married less often then average because they dont have the fucking patience to put up with all the bulshit from a wife. The cause then being single men die younger totally unrelated to there not being a wife in the picture…

    3. Women, I’m assuming have been more “into” healthy eating and healthy choices than men in general (I dont think this applies anymore), so a man in a marriage then would have a higher likelyhood to adopt some of those habits then a man not being controlled by a woman. The cause then being a difference in lifestyle-habits.

    If the people doing the statistics are really dishonest then maybe they include men who die for whatever reason while still being young in the single category, before they’ve had time/opportunity to get married…

  3. I am itching to hear your take on this.

    Not that marriage is all bad. Under the right circumstances it can be good.

    But doing it to live longer is bullshit as that statistic is merely spurious correlation and definitely not causation.

    I can think of two reasons off the cuff why the spurious correlation exist. Although, I am not that scientifically inclined and nor am I a good critical thinker that I might be wrong.

    1. It might be that divorced vs. married longevity comparison is biased towards marriage because even divorced people get married again.

    On the same light, 2. I would guess that including people who get married twice or more in the married basket may give spuriously overstated p-vlaues for mens longevity as I think that they are the least likely to live longer even compared to single people.

    What do you think?

  4. Challenge accepted!
    I have heard that claim too, several times, but I had never questioned it before.

    If I must be skeptical about it, I can think of several, non-mutually-exclusive factors that are likely to correlate with a longer life expectancy. Men who live longer probably have/do one or more of the following:

    1 – good genes, so the are less prone to hereditary or chronic disease (and likely physically attractive)
    2 – live a healthier life
    3 – are psychologically healthy (less prone to suicide, violence and other antisocial behavior)
    4 – have sufficient financial resources to sustain themselves (wealthy, stable job)
    5 – by being wealthier they most likely live or move to suburbs or generally safe, low crime areas.
    6 – work white collar jobs, where workplace deaths are uncommon (compared to industry).
    7 – are better educated (I read somewhere college education correlates with longer life expectancy).

    Notice something? All these are qualities that are attractive to women, and would prompt them to try to lock down a relationship with any man posessing several of them.

    Thats when they “forget to take the pill, that one day”… thirty days in a row, that is…

    Plus: most men (and women) engage in high risk behaviors in their youth, some will die doing stupid things, so its not surprising that they died unmarried because they were in their teens or early 20’s, while people who get married have generally matured out of this risk group. I have no idea how much of a factor this might be, but I would bet it must skew the stats somewhat. Btw, military service deaths could be a factor too in some countries.

  5. Most men who die young from accidents are unmarried, same with a man/boy who was always sick and died young. I imagine a man who has a life shortening poor genetics is not going to be attractive marriage material. Men down on their luck alcoholics, drug addicts, unemployed and homeless would quickly be divorced and thus single at the time of their deaths. So yeah if you don’t control for things like that the average of all single men would likely have shorter life expectancies. There also used to be HUGE pressure for men to marry so most men who could, did, that pressure is no longer nearly as strong.
    Now I would like to see a study controlling for IQ, income, and basic health measures that show a married man lives longer, I think it would show a single man who chooses to be single will outlive a married man.

  6. life expectancy is linked to social interaction. So it isn’t a big surprise being married gives you longer life. (And I’m assuming there is some selfselection involved. Where people who are more social (and inclined to live longer via social contact) are more likely to get married).

    Anyway it was only 2 more years max on average. Similar research has shown that flossing your teeth adds 0.5 years. The latter seems less hassle 😀

  7. I do not know if married men really live longer – maybe it just feels like it. 🙂 There are so many variables you would have to isolate for to determine if marital status really has much impact.

    If the wife takes some degree of care of the husband they might live longer, especially if a contrasting fellow is single, is somewhat isolated, and does not look after himself. Again, this sort of assumes a more traditional type of marriage where the wife is sort of a caregiver. A lot of marriages do not look that anymore.

  8. Men who are more likely to get married are also more likely to be educated and have at least a decent job (how many NEET or Mcjob employee get married). They are also more likely to be more stable (no hardcore partying or extreme sports).

  9. Such studies never differentiate between “never married” and “divorced”. Meaning they lump those groups together pretending marriage and divorce never happened for the divorcees. Since divorced men are at a hugely elevated risk of killing themselves married men “live longer”.

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