Marital status and mortality: the national longitudinal mortality study

Ann Epidemiol. 2000 May;10(4):224-38. doi: 10.1016/s1047-2797(99)00052-6.


Purpose: To examine the effect of marital status (married, widowed, divorced/separated, and never-married) on mortality in a cohort of 281,460 men and women, ages 45 years and older, of black and white races, who were part of the National Longitudinal Mortality Study (NLMS).

Methods: Major findings are based on assessments of estimated relative risk (RR) from Cox proportional hazards models. Duration of bereavement for the widowed is also estimated using the Cox model.

Results: For persons aged 45-64, each of the non-married groups generally showed statistically significant increased risk compared to their married counterparts (RR for white males, 1.24-1.39; white females, 1.46-1.49; black males, 1.27-1.57; and black females, 1. 10-1.36). Older age groups tended to have smaller RRs than their younger counterparts. Elevated risk for non-married females was comparable to that of non-married males. For cardiovascular disease mortality, widowed and never-married white males ages 45-64 showed statistically significant increased RRs of 1.25 and 1.32, respectively, whereas each non-married group of white females showed statistically significant increased RRs from 1.50 to 1.60. RRs for causes other than cardiovascular diseases or cancers were high (for white males ages 45-64: widowed, 1.85; divorced/separated, 2.15; and never-married, 1.48). The importance of labor force status in determining the elevated risk of non-married males compared to non-married females by race is shown.

Conclusions: Each of the non-married categories show elevated RR of death compared to married persons, and these effects continue to be strong after adjustment for other socioeconomic factors.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Cause of Death*
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Marital Status / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality / trends*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Registries
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution
  • United States / epidemiology