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Tel Aviv University findings put new spin on “’til death do us part.”

By United With Israel Staff

Men who perceive their marriage as unsuccessful are at high risk for premature death, according to new research from Tel Aviv University. Specifically, marital dissatisfaction was found to be a remarkably reliable predictor of premature death and strokes.

The long-term study was led by researchers from TAU’s School of Public Health at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine and initiated and managed by Prof. Uri Goldbort of the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine.

A man’s perception of being in an unsuccessful marriage is as significant a predictor of early death “no less than well-known risk factors such as smoking and lack of physical activity,” the researchers said in a statement.

The study, based on extensive health data from more than 30 years of research that tracked the deaths of 10,000 Israeli men, was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Clinical Medicine.

As part of the study, the researchers conducted statistical analyses of a database that started gathering data in the 1960s and, for 32 years, tracked the health and behavior of 10,000 men, all Israeli state employees, with special attention paid to death from strokes and premature death in general. At the beginning of the study, most of the participants were in their 40s. Since then, 64 percent died from a range of illnesses.

“We wanted to analyze the data gathered longitudinally using various parameters to identify behavioral and psychosocial risk factors that can predict death from a CVA and premature death for any reason,” explained Dr. Shahar Lev-Ari ,who helped lead the research.

Early on in the 32-year-long study, participants were asked to rank their level of marriage satisfaction.

To the researchers’ surprise, the analysis showed that this scale was a predictive factor vis-à-vis life expectancy, very similar to smoking and lack of physical activity. For example, the number of deceased from a stroke was 69 percent higher among those who ranked their marriage satisfaction as unsuccessful, compared to those who ranked their marriage satisfaction very highly – 40.6 dead among the very dissatisfied versus 24.0 among the very satisfied.

The researchers also conducted a statistical analysis of all known risk factors contributing to death from cardiovascular disease, such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and socioeconomic status. Here, too, the data was highly surprising. The relative risk for death for any reason among the unhappily married versus the happily married was 1.21 higher among those dissatisfied with their marriages. This rate is similar to known data regarding smokers and those who don’t exercise.

Said Dr. Lev-Ari, “These findings were consistent with other studies that have shown the effectiveness of educational programs fostering good life partnerships as part of a national strategy to promote health and wellness for the public at large.”

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