|Some studies suggest that
married people, as a class, live longer than single people.
Don't tell that to Hryhory Nestor.
Nestor, who lives in the western
part of the Ukraine, has been single throughout his entire life.
At 115, he's the world's oldest man.
Although he lives life one day at
a time, Nestor told Reuters news service that he hopes to
celebrate his next birthday on March 15.
He attributes his
advanced age to healthy living and the fact that he never
married. That should interest the 89 million Americans who
are not married, especially the 51,000 men and 152,000 women
over 85 who have always been single.
Singles should also take note
Bertrand, who had been the world's oldest woman at 115, until
she died two months ago, was also single throughout her life.
Bertrand lived in Canada.
The fact that
the world's oldest man is a life-long singleton prompted me to
do some research into the correlation between health, longevity,
and marital status. What I found was a bundle of
True, many studies conducted over
the past 140 years have shown that married persons tend to live
longer than their unmarried counterparts. But is that
because married people are healthier or because healthier people
tend to marry more frequently than those is poor health?
Is it marriage that accounts for
a higher degree of longevity for those who tie the knot, or is
it the lifestyle of married people that produces a
Recent research at the Rand
Center for the Study of Aging has attempted to answer these
questions and to discover the connection, if any, between
marital status and the aging of men.
Rand's researchers used a
nationally representative dataset to track more than 4,000 men
over a 22-year time frame. The study analyzed changes in the
men's health status alongside the course of their major marital
transitions--their history of marriage, divorce, death of a
spouse, and remarriage.
The Rand study found that
"married men in their 50s, 60s, and 70s have lower mortality
rates than those who are unmarried (never married, divorced, or
For divorced men, the higher risk
of death was explained primarily by their poorer health. But
among never-married men and widowers, "excess mortality rates
are less related to self-reported health status--a finding that
raises questions about the factors that lead to earlier death."
Previous research has suggested
that part of the marriage advantage stems from co-residence with
a partner or with other adults, not marital status per se. Since
men who are lifelong singles may prefer to live alone, they may
tend to die younger than their married counterparts more because
of their lack of a social network than the fact that they are
According to the Rand study, "the
relationship between marriage and longevity is more complex than
had been generally believed." Although evidence indicates
that marital status has an effect on mortality, "the determining
factors underlying this effect are not always clear."
Professor Bella DePaulo further
complicates the issue by suggesting the possibility of a stigma
theory, wondering whether the fact that married and single
people are differentially valued in society may partially
explain differences in health, longevity, and marital status.
DePaulo is the author of "Singled Out: How Singles are
Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily
Ever After." (St. Martin's Press)
But for Hryhory Nestor, the
matter is not complex at all. Personal freedom played a
major part in his long life.
"I liked my
freedom. I would spend my time with one girl and then another.
And then I would go off somewhere with the guys," he told
"I always stayed
in the fresh air and went barefoot everywhere. I slept out of
doors in the summer. And I would drink milk and eat cheese and
Hopefully, Nestor will get his
wish and be able to celebrate his birthday this week. But
even if he doesn't, I'll be celebrating on March 15 anyway
because that's my birthday too.
I'll lift my glass and make a toast to
Hryhory Nestor and
wish all single people a healthy and long life.
A Reuters news story on March 16 reported that Hryhory
celebrated his 116th birthday on March 15 with a glass of
champagne with a house full of well wishers.)
Unmarried America 2007
Thomas F. Coleman, Executive Director of Unmarried America, is an
attorney with 33 years of experience in singles' rights, family
diversity, domestic partner benefits, and marital status discrimination.
Each week he adds a new commentary to Column One: Eye on Unmarried
email@example.com. Unmarried America is a nonprofit
information service for unmarried employees, consumers, taxpayers, and