In a new study, researchers found evidence that men who married when they were younger than 25 had lower bone strength than men who married for the first time at a later age.
In addition, men in stable marriages or marriage-like relationships who had never previously divorced or separated had greater bone strength than men whose previous marriages had fractured, the researchers said. And those in stable relationships also had stronger bones than men who never married.
Although for women there were no similar links between bone health and being married or in a marriage-like relationship, the study authors did find evidence that women with supportive partners had greater bone strength than those whose partners didn’t appreciate them, understand how they felt or were emotionally unsupportive in other ways.
This is the first time that marital histories and marital quality have been linked to bone health, the study’s senior author, Dr. Carolyn Crandall, a professor of medicine in the division of general internal medicine and health services research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, said.
“There is very little known about the influence of social factors — other than socioeconomic factors — on bone health,” Crandall said.
“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,” she said.
The associations between marriage and bone health were evident in the spine but not the hip, possibly due to differences in bone composition, the researchers said.
The data suggested several significant correlations between marriage and bone health - but only for men.
The study authors found that men in long-term stable marriages or marriage-like relationships had higher bone density in the spine than every other male group, including men currently married who had previously been divorced or separated, men not currently in a relationship and men who had never been married.
Among men who first married prior to turning 25, the researchers found a significant reduction in spine bone strength for each year they were married before that age.
For instance, the authors said, those who marry young are likely to be less educated, leading to lower pay and more difficulty in making ends meet.
The study is published online in the peer-reviewed journal Osteoporosis International.