According to a large study, married people are up to a fifth less likely to die early than non-married people.
The researchers examined the medical records of half a million people in their 50s in Asia over a 15-year period.
They found that being married was associated with a 15 percent lower overall risk of death from all causes compared to single or unmarried people.
And those who tied the knot also had a 20 percent reduced risk of dying from accidents, injuries and heart disease.
Men benefited the most from being married as they experienced the largest drop in mortality rates.
Previous research has also shown that men are less likely to take risks, be involved in accidents, or use alcohol and drugs when they are married.
The new study says the “protective effect” of marriage could also be due to partners encouraging their spouse to seek medical help and adhere to treatment.
Better financial circumstances and healthier lifestyles are associated with marriage, researchers find.
“Happy wife, happy life” has long been touted as the key to a happy marriage. But now a study of more than half a million people in their 50s in Asia has found that tying the knot is also the key to living longer
In the UK, official figures show that the mortality rate for single men and women is up to twice that of their married counterparts.
The latest study by researchers at Japan’s National Cancer Center says previous studies have largely focused on Western populations.
Why is marriage good for your health?
Several studies have shown that marriage is good for people’s health.
In 2010, the World Health Organization found that marriage reduced the risk of suffering from depression and anxiety compared to being single.
And last year, a study by Aston Medical School in Birmingham concluded that married people were less likely to have type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
It’s not exactly clear why marriage helps keep people healthier, but experts say it could be because someone has someone else to take care of them.
Professor Rikke Lund, a public health expert at the University of Copenhagen, said: “A number of explanations have been suggested, including a healthier lifestyle among married people and faster contact with health services by married people when needed.”
US experts have also pointed out that single people are more likely to face loneliness or isolation than married people.
And unmarried men are more likely to drink excessively, eat unhealthily, and engage in risky behaviors.
They said marriages in East Asia had “distinctive features,” including the likelihood of living with extended families.
The team examined data from 623,140 people, who were on average 54 years old, by the Asia Cohort Consortium – a biobank with health and marital status data for 1 million people on the continent.
The vast majority (86.4 percent) were married.
Individuals were considered unmarried if they were single, separated, but still married, divorced or widowed.
A total of 123,264 deaths were recorded during the 15-year study.
Most were caused by cancer (41,362), cerebrovascular disease (14,563), and respiratory disease (13,583).
The results, published in the journal JAMA Network Open, showed that unmarried people were 12 percent more likely to die from cerebrovascular diseases — which include strokes and aneurysms — than unmarried people.
The death rate for coronary artery disease was one-fifth (20 percent) higher.
Unmarried people were 17 percent more likely to die from cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack, heart disease and heart failure.
And they were at a 19 percent higher risk of dying from an external cause, such as an accident or injury.
It also found a 14 percent increased risk of respiratory diseases, including lung disease and asthma, and a six percent increased risk of cancer death.
People with underlying conditions such as cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure also lived longer when married.
The researchers said that while their study found a correlation, it did not prove causation.
They identified several factors that may play a role.
For example, people who are poorer and have underlying health conditions are less likely to be selected for marriage in the first place.
They also said that their conclusion may not be due to marital status itself, but to living with a spouse.
Previous studies have shown that people are healthier when they live with another person than when they live alone.
Further analysis also found that women saw a much smaller benefit in terms of their mortality when they were married.
The researchers said this could be because household chores are unequally distributed in Asian marriages and women are more exposed to childcare, which “may counteract the health benefits of marriage”.
They also suggested that this finding may be due to the fact that unmarried women are more likely to have a job and therefore have more money and better health.