Objectives: We examined the association between trajectories of partnership status over the life course and objectively measured health indicators in midlife.
Methods: We used data from 4 waves (1981, 1991, 2000, and 2002-2004) of the British National Child Development Study (NCDS), a prospective cohort study that includes all people born in Britain during 1 week in March 1958 (n = 18 558).
Results: After controlling for selection attributable to early-life and early-adulthood characteristics, we found that life-course trajectories of partnership status were associated with hemostatic and inflammatory markers, the prevalence of metabolic syndrome and respiratory function in midlife. Never marrying or cohabiting was negatively associated with health in midlife for both genders, but the effect was more pronounced in men. Women who had married in their late 20s or early 30s and remained married had the best health in midlife. Men and women in cohabiting unions had midlife health outcomes similar to those in formal marriages.
Conclusions: Partnership status over the life course has a cumulative effect on a wide range of objectively measured health indicators in midlife.