The stress of marriage shortens your life by a year (if you're the wife)

Roger Dobson
Sunday 26 February 2006 01:00 GMT

Wedding rings should come with a health warning - at least for women. New research reveals that while wedlock helps men to live longer, it shortens a woman's life by more than a year.

Marriage helps husbands to an extra 1.7 years, but it knocks 1.4 years off the average wife's lifespan, according to the study of more than 100,000 people across Europe.

The stress of leading dual roles as working women and homekeepers is thought to be one of the key elements that is killing off female spouses earlier than their single sisters.

Another factor revealed by the research team of Professor Stefan Felder of Magdeburg University, Germany, is a tendency for women to ape the behaviour of their spouse. For instance, single women were more likely to be non-smokers than single men, so that many non-smoking women would marry smokers. That could lead them to take up cigarettes or to being exposed to passive smoking. The researchers also suggested that the effect of regular sex could be detrimental for women's longevity, while benefiting men's, thanks to hormonal changes.

Their findings came as the Office of National Statistics released figures showing that life expectancy rose by 5.1 years for British men between 1981 and 2002 but by just 3.7 years for women.

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