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Tuesday, 28 September, 1999, 13:56 GMT 14:56 UK
Death rates lower in wedlock
A Royal couple heading for a healthier future
Death rates among married people are lower, according to research released by the government.

The 'Deaths in England and Wales' survey for 1997 shows that married men were less likely to die at any age between 20 and 84 than their non-married counterparts.

For married women, death rates were lower at all ages from 20 onwards.

In fact, single, widowed or divorced men in their 50s and early 60s were up to two-and-a-half times more likely to die.

Many reasons for difference

Dr Yoav Ben-Shlomo, a senior lecturer in epidemiology in the department of social medicine at Bristol University, said many factors were thought to give married people an advantage.

He said that those with existing health problems were less likely to attract a spouse, and those who developed problems when married more likely to suffer a marriage breakdown.

"Research has shown that the sort of women that are considered sexier have physical characteristics which are related to better health.

"Even height is an indicator of childhood growth and development."

Another argument, he said, was that the lifestyle of the unmarried was generally unhealthier than that of the married.

He said: "The alcohol consumption of divorced men tended to be higher - perhaps one reason they became divorced in the first place."

Married people, he said, tended to be better supported psychologically, which has been shown to yield health benefits - and have better access to healthcare.

He said: "If you have a wife nagging you to go to the doctor you are more likely to go."

The survey, released by the Office for National Statistics, includes information on death rates by age, sex and marital status, by cause and general life expectancy.

Men catching up

In England and Wales this has increased since the mid-70s, and shows further evidence that men are catching women in the longevity stakes.

Average life expectancy is now 74.6 years for men and 79.7 years for women.

Men now live 4.7 years longer than in 1975-77, and women 3.7 years longer.

This mirrored the results of a recent Society of Actuaries report which showed that men and women who took out life assurance were living longer than ever before.

The survey also gave an insight in how people are dying in the 1990s.

Most people used to die at home, but this is no longer the case - only one-in-five people, just over 111,000 in 1997, died at home.

The majority of people die in hospital, while four percent of deaths took place in hospices, which care for the terminally-ill.

Coroners look into some deaths, particularly those in which the person may not have died from natural causes.

In 1997, coroners certified 120,534 deaths, some 22% of the total, and held full inquests on 20,738 of these.

Overall in the UK, deaths from lung cancer were highest in Scotland, at 985 deaths per million for men and 628 for women, and lowest in Northern Ireland, at 609 and 320 respectively.

Deaths from pneumonia were highest in Wales, at 194 for men and 1447 for women, and lowest in Scotland, at 632 and 932 respectively.

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