Being Married Increases Life Expectancy of White but Not Black Americans

  • Shervin Assari Departments of Family Medicine, College of Medicine, Charles R Drew University of Medicine and Science, CA, United States
  • Mohsen Bazargan Departments of Family Medicine, College of Medicine, Charles R Drew University of Medicine and Science, CA, United States AND Departments of Family Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, CA, United States
Population Differences, Population Groups, Ethnicity, Ethnic Groups, Blacks, African Americans, Chronic Medical Conditions, Chronic Disease, Socioeconomic Status, Socioeconomic Position, Marital Status, Family Type


Objective: The positive effect of high socioeconomic position (SEP) on health is well established. According Minorities’ Diminished Returns (MDRs) theory, however, the SEP-health link is smaller for Blacks compared to Whites. Using a 25-year follow up data of a national sample, this study tested racial differences in the effects of marital status on life expectancy among American adults.Materials and methods: The data of Americans’ Changing Lives (ACL, 1986 – 2011) were used. The ACL is a nationally representative longitudinal cohort study followed 3,361 White or Blacks adults from 1986 to 2011. The predictor of interest was marital status in 1986. Confounders included demographic factors (age and gender), SEP (education and employment), health behaviors (drinking, smoking, and physical activity), and health status (depressive symptoms, chronic disease, and self-rated health) all measured at baseline. Race was the moderator variable. All-cause mortality was the main dependent variable (outcome). Cox proportional hazard modeling was applied for data analysis. Results: In the overall sample, individuals who were married at baseline had a lower risk of mortality during the 25 years of follow up. Race altered the effect of marital status on life expectancy, indicating smaller protective effect for Blacks relative to Whites. Race –specific Cox regression models showed an association between marital status and life expectancy for White but not Black Americans. Conclusion: In line with the MDRs theory, the health gain that follows marital status is diminished for Black Americans compared to White Americans. Only equalizing SEP across racial groups may not be adequate for eliminating racial/ethnic health inequalities. Policies should go beyond SEP and reduce societal and structural barriers that disproportionately hinder Blacks from translating their SEP indicators to desirable health outcomes.


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How to Cite
Assari S, Bazargan M. Being Married Increases Life Expectancy of White but Not Black Americans. J Fam Reprod Health. 13(3):132-140.
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