Relationships Spouses & Partners Does Being Married Improve Life Expectancy? And Why It's OK to Be Single By Mark Stibich, PhD Mark Stibich, PhD Mark Stibich, PhD, FIDSA, is a behavior change expert with experience helping individuals make lasting lifestyle improvements. Learn about our editorial process Updated on April 20, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Carly Snyder, MD Medically reviewed by Carly Snyder, MD Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Jose Luis Pelaez Inc / Getty Images When you grow old, who will take care of you? For many, that is a husband or wife. So does marriage improve life expectancy? Here's what research shows. Marriage was one of the first non-biological factors identified as improving life expectancy. The explanation given was that married people tend to take fewer risks with their health and have better mental and emotional health. Marriage also provides more social and material support, which means having someone to take you to the doctor or care for you when you are sick. However, research shows that the difference between married people and single people, in terms of health, is narrowing. This could be because the definitions of marriage are changing, or that people have other outlets for care. The Changing Face of Marriage and Life Expectancy No one is saying that having a piece of paper that says “married” on it is going to improve your life expectancy. However, there is something about people who live in a marriage that improves life expectancy—or to be more precise, there was something about people who lived in marriage in the 70s that was found to improve life expectancy. Now, people can be listed as “single never married” in census data, but be living with someone and be experiencing all the health benefits of marriage without having the marriage certificate. This complicates research on marriage and health. Being Single Can Be Healthy Research shows that people who are single, especially men, are living longer than ever before. In the past, men who were never married typically had the lowest life expectancy, but now the never married men are closing in on their currently married counterparts. Experts believe the difference in life expectancy is becoming smaller because single men now have access to support and health resources that, in the past, only came because their wife took care of them. In other words, 40 years ago, married men had the advantage (over never married men) because they had their wives to make sure they went to the doctor and took care of themselves. Now, men are taking more responsibility for their own health and it is normal for a man to express concern about his health and take action. Why Being Widowed Hurts Losing a spouse who you have lived with your entire life is devastating for husbands and wives alike. As a result, research shows that people who are widowed have slightly worse health than people who are married. This is an issue that has gotten worse in recent years: No one really knows why the experience of being widowed now is more detrimental to health than being widowed in the past, however it is possible that people had more of a community and extended family to help them out. Now, the widowed are more likely to be isolated. Regardless of whether you're single, married or widowed, there are things you can do on your own to improve your longevity outside of a relationship. 3 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Perelli-Harris B, Hoherz S, Addo F, et al. Do Marriage and Cohabitation Provide Benefits to Health in Mid-Life? The Role of Childhood Selection Mechanisms and Partnership Characteristics Across Countries. Popul Res Policy Rev. 2018;37(5):703-728. doi:10.1007/s11113-018-9467-3 Perelli-harris B, Hoherz S, Addo F, et al. Do Marriage and Cohabitation Provide Benefits to Health in Mid-Life? The Role of Childhood Selection Mechanisms and Partnership Characteristics Across Countries. Popul Res Policy Rev. 2018;37(5):703-728. doi:10.1007/s11113-018-9467-3 Sullivan AR, Fenelon A. Patterns of widowhood mortality. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2014;69(1):53-62. doi:10.1093/geronb/gbt079 Additional Reading Liu H, Umberson DJ. The Times They Are a Changin’: Marital Status and Health Differentials From 1972 to 2003. J Health Soc Behav 49(3), 2008. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Relationships Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.