Marital history, current marital status, and mortality: a two-nation comparison

Emily Grundy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)
Cecilia Tomassini, University of Molise
John C. Henretta, University of Florida

A range of studies across several nations have examined the association of current marital status with mortality. The goal of these comparisons is to provide a comprehensive examination of the benefits of marriage for health, regardless of differences in culture and social structure. In this paper, we expand this analysis by examining the effects of both long-term marital history and recent marital experience on mortality at later ages. We examine data from England and Wales and the USA. We hypothesized that both recent marital history and earlier exposure to marriage should, on the basis of theorized benefits of marriage, be associated with lower mortality and better health. Though the measures available in the two data sets differ, the overall findings are quite similar. Among men, recent experience of marital change and current status as well as greater ‘exposure’ to marriage affect mortality. Recent experience is clearly more important among men in England and Wales, but both long-term and recent experience are important among US men. Among women, effects of long-term exposure are not significant net of socioeconomic status and other covariates, but recent change has some muted effects. Results indicate the important role of both long-term marital exposure and recent marital experience on mortality, even after controlling for socioeconomic status. There are also important gender differences, with marital experience having a greater effect on men than women.

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Presented in Session 55: Life Cycle and Mortality

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