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From The Desk Of Chicago Writer, Evelyn Cogdell…

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The Effect of Marriage on Mortality Rates:

Men vs. Women

Marriage has been a major topic of interest studied by scientists for the past several years. In essence researchers seek to discover the overall benefits that marriage can provide for individuals, both men and women. Among the benefits researchers have looked at are:  the impact of marriage on the financial, psychological, physical, social, emotional, and spiritual well-being of an individual, and how these elements in turn affect mortality rates.

For decades, there has been an ever-popular growing trend regarding older men mating and marrying younger women. We all know the scenario; an older man, who has been a carefree bachelor all his life, will quite suddenly meet and mate a younger woman. And, almost as suddenly as they began dating, he will decide he wants to settle down with her.  As the old saying goes, the older man decides to “rob the cradle”.

But why is this ‘cradle-robbing’ trend so popular?  What makes older men whom we all know have been enjoying ‘sleeping around’ with every woman they possibly can, finally decide to get married, and then to a younger woman?  Is this because younger women are more attractive than women their own age? Are the laws of attraction at work here, or is something else going on?

Some older men feel that a younger woman will boost their ego by improving their social status.  Being seen out on the town with a younger woman improves the way other people view him. In other words, he feels more virile and less like an ‘aged’ man. Studies have shown that older men that mate with and/or marry younger women, have demonstrated a ‘marked’ increase in their fertility rates. We see it all the time, women having babies with their older husbands; and, this is true whether their husbands had previously been married or whether marriage is new to both partners.

But what about the mortality rates of older men? Another popular theory, which scientists have discovered is no myth, is that men must marry or risk an early death. This is especially true when the man has had several different mates throughout his life. Eventually he has to settle down or place his mortality rate in serious jeopardy.  As men get older, they have to make sure they are in a monogamous relationship, if they want a longer life expectancy. All that ‘running around’ tends to catch up with them.

According to the researchers at Guardian.co.uk, marriage to a younger woman improves a man’s life expectancy. However, the Guardian researchers also found that a woman who marries a younger man, seven to nine years her junior, increases her mortality rate by 20%. Additionally, Sven Drefahl, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute in Rostock, Germany concluded that a woman’s life expectancy is shortened if there’s a huge age difference between her and her spouse. Essentially then, the greater the age difference between a woman and her partner the greater the woman’s mortality risks, whether she is younger or older. 

Further research by Drefahl unearthed the following data: men who marry women seven to nine years younger, decrease their mortality rate by 11%; whereas, men who marry older women showed an increase in their mortality risks. Years ago, scientists assumed that healthy older men and women selected younger spouses because they already expected to live a long life, and therefore were able to marry whomever they wanted.  Another general assumption was that younger spouses positively impacted the overall well-being of their older partners. If this theory were true, the life expectancy of the older spouse would naturally be extended. 

While the latter theory holds true for older men, it has proven to be false for older women. And, while the ‘health selection’ theory might prove true for older men, Drefahl has concluded, “it can’t be true for older women”.  Rather than ‘select’ a younger mate, most women choose to marry older men or men their own age. Drefahl says: “Its not that older women can’t find younger men, most of them just don’t want to”. This could hold true for many reasons, one being women prefer older men or men their own age, because they admire the wisdom and experience the older man can bring to the relationship. Further, these women may feel that an older man is less likely to ‘cheat’ or commit adultery, than their younger counterparts. And, the Guardian researchers have concluded that a woman’s life expectancy increases when she and her husband are around the same age. 

Men will undoubtedly read this article and go, “Whoa, gotta go find myself a younger woman.”  Conversely, women reading this article might want to reconsider marrying and/or staying in serious, long-term relationships with their older counterparts.  Celebrity statistics have offered us several models of the older man/younger woman scenario, as well as the older woman/younger man scenario:  Michael Douglas (66) & Catherine Zeta-Jones (41); Warren Beatty (74) & Annette Bening (52); Robert Redford (75) & his new wife (53); Nick Cannon (29) & Mariah Carey (40); as well as Ashton Kutcher (33) & Demi Moore (49).  And, how can we forget the ‘aged’ founder of the Playboy Mansion, none other than Mr. Hugh Hefner (85) who recently got engaged to one of his many much younger ‘playboy’ girlfriends  (the wedding is set to take place in June, 2011)?  Apparently, these older men know something about the older man/younger woman mortality reduction benefits or are ‘true love’ and the laws of attraction in play after all?

Overall, scientists conclude that marriage can benefit both sexes.  Studies have proven the long-term effects of marriage provide:  an improved financial situation (more so for women than for men); better psychological effects, and reduction in depression and stress (more so for men than women); and a marked general improvement in health and well-being (physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual).   Consequently, a satisfying marriage decreases mortality rates and is preferred by most, over a single, widowed or divorced life.  Essentially, if you’re ‘aged’ it is better to have a companion with whom to share your life than to live life alone. Marriage, especially one that is satisfying, seems to be just what the doctor ordered.

Clara54 thanks Chicago writer & published author, Evelyn Cogdell  for asking her meager input to this fab & informative piece which was published in the March 31st, 2011 edition of The Chicago Bulletin Newspaper. Congrats, Evelyn! Readers can contact the author, evelyncogdell@sbcglobal.net