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.
Research has shown that black men are about twice as likely to die from prostate cancer than other racial or ethnic groups are. Yet they’re less likely to get screened for the disease. Why is that? And can “spiritually themed” health interventions help?
That’s what Cheryl Holt will try to find out. Holt, a social psychologist at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health, is beginning a four-year study funded by the American Cancer Society to see whether black churchgoers can be trained as “community health advisers,” encouraging their peers to talk about prostate cancer with their doctors and get screened. The idea is to leverage the fact that the church is already recognized as a social network for black men.
As urologist Michael Naslund, who’s also working on the study, adds:
If you can access and educate people who carry weight and carry influence in the African American community, hopefully they can then go out and explain to people the importance of getting this done.
A new study from chaplains George Fitchett and Patricia Murphy of the Rush University Medical Center found that clinically depressed people who believe in a personal and caring God respond better to medical treatment for their illness than do those who don’t believe in a concerned God.
As Murphy, who’s also a professor of religion, health, and human values at Rush, notes:
The positive response to medication had little to do with the feeling of hope that typically accompanies spiritual belief. It was tied specifically to the belief that a Supreme Being cared.
For people diagnosed with clinical depression, medication certainly plays an important role in reducing symptoms. But when treating persons diagnosed with depression, clinicians need to be aware of the role of religion in their patients’ lives. It is an important resource in planning their care.
According to a new study from researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, incurable cancer patients who receive spiritual care from doctors, nurses, and chaplains also receive less aggressive medical care and have a better quality of life as they approach death.
These are important findings, says Dr. Tracy Balboni, the study’s lead author, highlighting “the need to educate medical caregivers in being attentive to the frequent role of religion and spirituality in patients’ coping with advanced illness.”