Do Women With Younger Husbands Die Earlier‎?

Past studies have shown that men with younger wives live longer. But what about women with younger husbands? The theory was that an effect called “health selection” would apply to them, too: that those of us able to attract younger spouses are healthier and therefore already have a higher life expectancy. And younger spouses can better care for us in our old age, extending our life span.
Except according to new research by Sven Drefahl of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, who studied 2 million Danish couples, the larger the age gap between a wife and her husband, the lower her life expectancy—especially if her husband is younger. While men who marry women seven to nine years younger rather than someone their own age lower their risk of dying by 11 percent, a woman who marries a man seven to nine years younger increases her mortality risk by 20 percent.
Why would younger spouses extend the lives of men but not women? Researchers aren’t sure, but it’s likely that women don’t benefit psychologically and socially from a younger partner the way men do because they spend more time with their friends than do their husbands. And, adds Drefahl, women who marry someone younger might suffer more stress and receive less social support than women who, more traditionally, marry older men:

One of the few possible explanations is that couples with younger husbands violate social norms and thus suffer from social sanctions.

A woman’s best bet, he found, is to marry someone exactly the same age.

Category: Health


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