A happy marriage really is the key to a longer and healthier life, according to a major UK report.
In the first study of its kind, the Office for National Statistics found death rates among single men and women are up to twice as high compared to their married counterparts.
Analysts looked at 5million deaths between 2010 and 2019 among adults over the age of 20 in England and Wales.
For men, being divorced appeared to carry the biggest risk of an early death (2,319 fatalities from all causes per 100,000 divorced men) followed by being single (2,077) and being a widower (1,640). Married men, however, had a rate of just 1,073.
Among women — who traditionally live longer than men — mortality rates were highest in those who were single (1,307), followed by widows (1,230) and divorcees (1,114). Whereas married women had a rate of just 699.
The real-world data mirrors findings from several previous studies which showed married people often live longer, healthier and happier lives.
Experts believe that this is because partners look out for their loved ones, urging them to get health check-ups whenever an illness or condition emerges.
Being happy has its own health benefits helping to reduce stress and promote a healthy lifestyle, while being family-orientated has been associated with a reduced risk of getting involved in risky behaviours.
On the other hand, being single, divorced or widowed is linked with higher rates of loneliness and depression.
Men who were married (light blue line) were consistently less likely to die earlier than those who were single (dark blue line), divorced (blue line) or widowed (green line). Experts said this was likely because people who are married have partners who watch out for them and urge them to go to the doctors if they are suffering from an illness
The same pattern was seen in women with those who were married (light blue) also having a lower mortality rate than those who were divorced (blue), single (dark blue) or widowed (green)
Of the deaths included in the ONS report, 2.06million were widowed, 1.9million were married, 530,000 were single and 515,000 were divorced.
They were adjusted by age to account for population differences — and split into two groups of 20 to 64-year-olds and the over-65s.
How is marriage good for your health?
Several studies have suggested marriage is good for people’s health.
In 2010 the World Health Organization found being in wedlock reduced the risk of suffering depression and anxiety compared to people who were single.
And last year a study from Aston Medical School in Birmingham concluded married people were less likely to suffer from type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
It is not clear exactly why marriage helps to keep people healthier, but experts say it could be because someone has another person looking out for them.
Professor Rikke Lund, a public health expert at the University of Copenhagen, said: ‘A number of explanations have been suggested including a healthier life style among the married and faster contact to health services among the married in case of need.’
US experts have also suggested single people are more likely to face loneliness or isolation than married ones.
And men who are not married are more likely to drink alcohol excessively, eat unhealthily and engage in risky behaviours.
There was a similar trend in both age groups, with marriage carrying the lowest death rates.
In the younger age group, fatality rates among single men were three times higher than among their married counterparts (510 per 100,000 versus 166).
Rates were also higher among widowers (440) and those who were divorced (432).
Fatality rates for single women were double those for married women (298 per 100,000 versus 127).
Women who had lost their spouses (305) had the second highest death rate, followed by female divorcees (240).
In the older age groups, married people also had the lowest death rates.
Among men it was highest among those who were divorced (8,208), and triple that of married men (2,819).
It was followed by single men (6,818) and those who were widowers (5,269).
Among women it was highest for those who were single (4,361), widows (4,028) and divorced (3,758).
The head of mortality statistics at the ONS, Sarah Caul, said: ‘For the first time we have analysed demographic trends in mortality rates by marital status.
‘We’ve found, by looking at data across a decade, that men and women who are married or in a civil partnership consistently have a lower mortality rate than their single, divorced or widowed counterparts.’
Meanwhile, Professor Rikke Lund, a public health expert at the University of Copenhagen, said the findings were ‘very consistent’ with previous research.
She told MailOnline: ‘A number of explanations have been suggested, including a healthier lifestyle among the married and faster contact to health services among the married in case of need.’
US experts at Harvard Medical School warned unmarried, divorced and widowed men do not eat as well, are less likely to exercise and more likely to smoke, drink excessively and engage in other risky behaviours.
They added: ‘In contrast, married men are more likely to get regular medical care and to benefit from a higher standard of living.’
It comes after an ONS study estimated one in five girls and one in eight boys born in Britain will now reach the age of 100.
On average, boys who were born in 2020 can expect to reach the age of 87 and girls are likely to breach 90, the agency said.
Despite figures showing children born today are likely to live to an older age than their parents, experts have warned life expectancy improvements have stalled.
Progress in the UK had already stalled before Covid took off, prompting much debate about the causes. Some attributed it to health cuts and austerity.
But experts fear the pandemic has exacerbated the issue and there are already signs it has reversed some of the gains made in recent decades.
Just over half of people in England and Wales are married according to the latest figures, although the proportion in this status.