Men who think their marriage is unsuccessful are at higher risk for an early death

TEL-AVIV, Israel — Marriages have their ups and downs, even the most successful and long-lasting ones. However, a new study finds there may be a lot of truth in the saying “happy wife, happy life” when it comes to men’s health. Researchers in Israel find men who view their marriage as being unsuccessful and unhappy are significantly more likely to die younger than other men.

A study of 10,000 Israeli men over 32 years discovered a serious uptick in stroke risk and death among men describing their marriage as unhappy. According to researchers, an unsuccessful marriage produced the same health risks as smoking and lack of physical activity.

“Our study shows that the quality of marriage and family life has health implications for life expectancy. Men who reported they perceived their marriage as failure died younger than those who experienced their marriages as very successful,” says Dr. Shahar Lev-Ari, the head of the Department of Health Promotion at Tel Aviv University in a media release.

“In other words, the level of satisfaction with marriage has emerged as a predictive factor for life expectancy at a rate comparable with smoking (smokers versus non-smokers) and physical activity (activity versus inactivity).”

A bad marriage can cause men to have a stroke?

Researchers started gathering data on these men in the 1960s, looking at both health and behavior over several decades. All of the participants were Israeli state employees and study authors focused their attention mainly on deaths due to a stroke and other causes of premature death. Overall, most of the men started the study in their 40s and 64 percent died due to a range of illnesses.

Early on in the 32-year study, each husband ranked their marriage satisfaction on a scale of one to four — with one meaning very happy and successful and four meaning their marriage is in trouble. Surprisingly, study authors discovered being in an unhappy marriage was a clear predictor of dying young from a stroke.

Results show men ranking their marriage as unsuccessful were 69 percent more likely to die from a stroke than those saying they’re in a happy relationship. Moreover, happily married men were 19 percent less likely to die from any cause in comparison to men in an unsuccessful marriage. Researchers add the gaps in health were largest among relatively young husbands, under the age of 50.

A ‘broken heart’ can lead to heart disease

The study also looked at marriage’s link to heart health. The team found that unhappily married men were over 20 percent more likely to die from the many contributing factors of cardiovascular disease. These include diabetes, hypertension, and excessive weight or body mass index.

“Furthermore, it’s important to note that we observed a higher risk among relatively young men, under the age of 50. At a higher age, the gap is smaller, perhaps due to processes of adjustment that life partners go through over time. These findings were consistent with other studies that have shown the effectiveness of educational programs fostering good life partnerships as part of a national strategy to promote health and wellness for the public at large,” Dr. Lev-Ari concludes.

The findings appear in the Journal of Clinical Medicine.

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