Do unmarried older people object to living alone?

Married people live longer than singles

Marriage is becoming less important. This is rather bad for life expectancy. Because with a partner you get older. This is especially true for men.

The Germans have become a people grumpy about marriage. At the end of 2014 there were “only” 17.5 million married couples - 1.6 million fewer than ten years earlier. More and more people either live alone or do without a marriage certificate if they have a partner.

A marriage certificate would not be so bad for your own life expectancy. Because studies show that spouses live longer than singles. "In fact, the life expectancy of the married exceeds that of the unbound contemporaries by several years," says Thomas Klein, professor at the Max Weber Institute for Sociology in Heidelberg. For years he has been investigating the effects of changes in the relationship and family biography on health and states: "The risk of death for married people is 24 percent lower than that of permanent singles of the same age." in the same period there are only 76 marriages of the same age.

Relationship between relationship status and life expectancy has been known for a long time

Demographers have known for a long time that marital status also influences life expectancy. As early as 1858, the British epidemiologist William Farr observed a connection between relationship status and longevity when he looked through the French death register. Since then, scientists have been researching the causes and have identified two main reasons for the differences in life expectancy between married and single people: the so-called protection effect and the selection effect.

According to the protection theory, married people benefit from their more regular life and mutual care. “A stable partnership offers security and support - whether financially or emotionally in the form of closeness and support. One speaks here of a meaningful effect, ”says Klein. The partners are subject to social control, plus there is responsibility for each other and possibly the children. All of this means that unhealthy habits such as smoking or heavy alcohol consumption are less common in partnerships. Risky behavior, such as driving a car fast, is also rather uncommon. And sometimes it is enough if your partner admonishes you to dress warmly in the face of sub-zero temperatures.

Men particularly benefit from marriage

The selection theory, on the other hand, sees the higher life expectancy of married people less as a result of the positive effects of marriage, but rather as the result of negative selection. “It is often people who are more likely to find a partner who are physically fitter and healthier anyway and therefore have good chances of a long life,” explains Klein. In other words: People with chronic illnesses, overweight people or alcoholics not only live shorter lives, they also stay alone more often. For this reason alone, singles have a lower life expectancy than married people.

Whichever effect outweighs it, it is the men in particular who benefit from marriage. Their life expectancy is generally lower than that of women, and this is primarily due to genetic factors and their riskier behavior: They smoke more, drink more alcohol, are more research-oriented on the road and visit the doctor less often. In a partnership, however, the healthier lifestyle of women rubs off on men - which is extremely good for their life expectancy, as a study from the Czech Republic shows. According to this, married men live up to nine years longer than same-sex singles. Married women, on the other hand, “only” have an additional seven years thanks to their husbands.

The younger the woman, the better for the spouse

Men should also pay attention to the age and level of education of their partner if they want to get particularly old. Sounds strange, but it is proven by the statistics, as the scientist Klein knows. “Men actually benefit from a younger and more intelligent woman.” One explanation: Intelligent women challenge men mentally longer and thus protect them from dementia. As a study by the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research shows, the risk of premature death for a man with a woman seven to nine years younger is eleven percent lower than that for men with wives of the same age.

Women, however, do not benefit from the constellation with an older man: They should rather choose a spouse of the same age. Because the greater the age difference to the partner, the worse the life expectancy - regardless of whether the husband is older or younger. Researchers believe that women with a significantly younger or older partner are more likely to struggle with social prejudice. This puts them in an outsider role and puts them under more stress. And therefore live shorter.

Living together is crucial, not the marriage certificate

As a consolation, I would like to say to all those grumbling about marriage: You don't necessarily have to tie the knot, a wild marriage is more than enough. “Our studies at the University of Heidelberg have shown that a common household is the decisive factor. Because if you lump two salaries into one pot, that also brings a certain increase in prosperity, ”explains Klein. Couples living together could often afford more than single people. And wealth, in turn, has a strong influence on health, says Klein. Conclusion: Thus, those who live together live longer - a marriage certificate only makes it official.