In a recent study, it has been discovered that men who have never been married are significantly more likely to die from cancer than married men, and the mortality gap has widened over the last few decades.
The study looked at survival data from cancer patients in Norway between 1970 and 2007, and compared this to their marital status – single, married, divorced, or widowed.
The results showed that the unmarried men and women had a greater risk of losing their life to the disease compared to those who had married, divorced, or were widowed.
During the 1970-1974 study period, unmarried men with cancer were 18 percent more likely to die than married men with cancer, and this risk increased to 35 percent during the 2005-2007 time period. While single women were also less likely to survive cancer than married women, the difference between them remained relatively constant over the years.
“The differences in survival between unmarried and married people with cancer could possibly be explained by better general health at the time of diagnosis or better adherence to treatment regimes and follow-ups,” said study researcher Astri Syse, PhD, of the Cancer Registry of Norway, in a news release.
“One problem with this kind of study is that cohabiting people are scattered throughout the never married, divorced, or widowed groups. Consequently, presuming cohabiters to have the same benefits as married couples, the actual differences between couples and singletons are probably much higher,” said Håkon Kravdal, co-author of the new study.
Researchers also believe that the emotional support from a spouse during and after cancer treatment might make a difference in survival rates. Married people may also be more likely to be diagnosed with cancer at an earlier stage.
Experts in the U.S. said the cancer survival trend seen in Norway may be different from what’s happening here, because of the countries’ differing health care systems.
This study has been published in the open access journal BMC Public Health.