Volume 29 - Article 12 | Pages 307–322  

Mortality by marital status in a rapidly changing society: Evidence from the Czech Republic

By Markéta Pechholdová, Gabriela Šamanová


Background: Married people tend to live longer than their unmarried counterparts, and the advantage in life expectancy enjoyed by married people relative to other groups has been increasing over time. The question of whether the benefits of marriage result from selection or protection continues to be debated. But even as this advantage has been increasing, the share of married people in the population has been declining.

Objective: We explore the dynamics of marital status mortality differentials in the Czech Republic since 1961. We are interested in the selection environment before and after the abrupt political shift in 1989, which led to a great deal of social change.

Methods: Unlinked all-cause death counts were combined with the census population by marital status. Changes in overall life expectancy at age 30 were decomposed into those associated with mortality change within marital statuses, and those attributable to changes in the marital status composition of the population.

Results: Mortality differences by marital status increased mainly between 1961 and 1991, and were largely due to the failure of unmarried adults to catch up with the (modest) mortality improvements seen among married adults. Since 1991, the differentials have risen only slightly. Never-married people have lagged the most, with a life expectancy in 2010 that was 9.6 years lower among men and 7.7 years among women than among their married counterparts. The decrease in marriage prevalence reduced the improvement in overall male life expectancy by 0.9 years.

Conclusions: While there has been an absolute improvement in mortality among unmarried men since 1991, the life expectancy gap between married and unmarried men has increased. A plausible explanation for this gap is that the benefits of marriage are now available to a more (positively) selected population. Further research is needed to confirm these findings.

Author's Affiliation

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

Results and observations from the reconstruction of continuous time series of mortality by cause of death: Case of West Germany, 1968-1997.
Volume 21 - Article 18

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