Marriage Benefits Male Bone Health
January 23, 2014

Bone Health In Men Affected By Timing Of Marriage

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

American men often take time in proposing to their sweethearts and a new study from a team of American researchers has found that waiting until 25 years of age to get married can have a beneficial effect on male bone health.

Published in the journal Osteoporosis International, the study found that men who got married for the first time before turning 25 had lower bone strength than their male counterparts who got married at an older age.

The study team also found that men in steady marriages or marriage-like relationships who had never previously divorced or been separated from a spouse had higher bone strength than men from dissolved marriages. Men in stable relationships also had more robust bones than men who never married.

While similar bone-health benefits weren’t seen among married women in the study, the researchers discovered that women with supportive partners had higher measures of bone strength than women whose partners didn't value them, sympathize with them or were emotionally unsupportive.

"There is very little known about the influence of social factors — other than socioeconomic factors — on bone health," said study author Dr. Carolyn Crandall , a professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "Good health depends not only on good health behaviors, such as maintaining a healthy diet and not smoking, but also on other social aspects of life, such as marital life stories and quality of relationships."

The study team culled data from the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study, which included volunteers between the ages 25 and 75 when the study began in 1995-96. Follow-up interviews were conducted with participants in 2004-05 for the MIDUS II study.

The study team focused on hip and spine bone-density measures taken by standard bone-density scanners during volunteers’ follow-up visits at UCLA, Georgetown University and the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The team also considered related data from 294 men and 338 women from around the US. They also considered confounding factors such as medications, health behaviors and menopause.

An analysis of the data revealed notable correlations between marriage and bone health for male participants. Men in long-term stable marriages or marriage-like relationships showed higher bone densities in the spine than every other group of males in the study, including married men who had previously been divorced or separated and single men who had never been married.

For men who married before turning 25, the study team discovered a significant drop in spine bone strength for each year they were married before that age.

"Very early marriage was detrimental in men, likely because of the stresses of having to provide for a family," said study author Dr. Arun Karlamangla, a professor of medicine in the geriatrics division at the Geffen School.

The researchers speculated that men who marry young are most often less educated, leading to lower pay and higher stress.

The study team said their results "provide additional new evidence of the association between psychosocial life histories and adult bone health"

“The gender differences observed in the association between marital history and [bone strength] are consistent with gender differences seen in previous studies of marital status and other aspects of health, and imply that we should not assume that marriage has the same health rewards for men and women,” they added. "Specifically, never marrying, and experiencing a divorce, widowhood, or separation are associated with poor bone health in men, whereas poor marital quality is associated with poor bone health in women."