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Thursday, 23 August, 2001, 16:56 GMT 17:56 UK
Single men 'die younger'
couple in hospital
Married couples fare better, according to research
Men who live alone are at an increased risk of dying from a variety of different illnesses, according to official government statistics.

The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics found that single men aged 45 and over are at a 23% greater risk of early death.

Within this age group, men who get divorced are at a 30% greater risk.

Being widowed increased the risk of death by 20%, although remarriage improved a man's survival chances.

Angela Donkin, who compiled the report, said: "The factors associated with this increased risk were being unmarried and, to a lesser extent, living in urban areas and having no job or a manual job."

Married benefit

The research ties in with other studies which discovered the health benefits of being married.

One US study found that men who were married were 70% more likely to engage in physical exercise than widowers, and much less likely to smoke.

Married couples were more likely to eat breakfast and have their health regularly checked.

The number of people living on their own in the UK has increased over the past few decades.

Health authorities, social services and housing providers should recognise the effects of loneliness and isolation on the health and well-being of older people

Age Concern spokesman
In 1971, 18% of people were living alone, compared with an estimated 28.5% last year.

A spokesman for the charity Age Concern said: "Whilst many older people have been able to make the necessary adjustments required for living alone, some older people find it quite difficult coping on their own.

"Many older people who we have heard from have said they felt depression and fear as a result of their loneliness.

"It is easy to see how such isolation can have a detrimental affect on a person's mental well-being.

"Health authorities, social services and housing providers should recognise the effects of loneliness and isolation on the health and well-being of older people.

"When necessary, older people should be able to transfer freely across local authorities to live in housing nearer their family or friends."

Family campaigner and GP Dr Adrian Rogers, of the pressure group Family Focus, said: "A long term permanent relationship with one person where you actually get on and enjoy it is good for you.

"On that basis a happy marriage is definitely good for you."

See also:

02 Jul 98 | Health
Get married - live longer
17 Jun 01 | Health
Elderly women more alert than men
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