Unhappy marriages may be deadly for men, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine which found they were linked to higher mortality rates.
Researchers at Tel Aviv University analysed the health of almost 9,000 men over more than three decades and concluded that those who were dissatisfied with their marriages had a higher risk factor for strokes and other deaths.
The team behind the study have called for health officials to start promoting marriage therapy to mitigate the risks.
Researchers reviewed the health data of 8,945 Israeli men who were part of a previous mortality study which began in 1965.
The men were aged over 40 years old and worked in the civil service or other municipal roles and were asked to rank their marriages on a scale of one to four.
Men who gave their marriages the lowest score were 69 per cent more likely to die from a stroke, with a rate of 40.6 per 10,000 people, than those who gave their marriages the top score.
The group with the least successful marriages had a 19 per cent higher overall rate of rate than those with the most successful marriages.
Younger men fare worse
The researchers also discovered that the rate of mortality for those younger than 50 years old was significantly higher, 39.4 per cent, in the group of men who were least satisfied with their marriages. A less dramatic increase of 6.5 per cent was seen in older participants.
“What we found, which is surprising, is that dissatisfaction among men with their marriage is a risk factor for death, of a similar magnitude to smoking, or men failing to exercise,” Dr Shahar Lev-Ari, the study’s lead researcher, told The Times of Israel.
Dr Lev-Ari said he had decided to revisit the data from the 1965 study because researchers today have a greater understanding of the links between psychological wellbeing and physical health.
“We found that their marriage satisfaction at the start of the study was actually a predictive factor for death in general and for death by strokes,” he said.
In the study, researchers concluded that the increased long-term risk of mortality “was of a similar order of magnitude to those determined for established risk factors (smoking and leisure-time physical activity) for all-cause mortality”.
“Assessing marital satisfaction and appraising the health benefits of marital education programmes for young couples should therefore be implemented as part of health promotion strategies for the general population,” they wrote.