Guys: Get married for the sake of your bones, but wait until you're 25

January 22, 2014 by Enrique Rivero, University of California, Los Angeles

(Medical Xpress)—Marriage is good for the health of men's bones—but only if they marry when they're 25 or older, new UCLA research suggests.

In a study published online in the peer-reviewed journal Osteoporosis International, 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, said 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.

"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."

The researchers used data from the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study, which recruited participants between the ages 25 and 75 in 1995–96. Participants from that study were re-interviewed in 2004–05 (MIDUS II). Specifically, the authors used hip and spine measurements obtained by standard bone-density scanners during participants' MIDUS II visits at UCLA, Georgetown University and the University of Wisconsin–Madison and other data to examine the relationship between bone health and marriage in 294 men and 338 women from around the country. They also took into consideration other factors that influence bone health, such as medications, health behaviors and menopause.

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.

"Very early marriage was detrimental in men, likely because of the stresses of having to provide for a family," said study co-author Dr. Arun Karlamangla, a professor of medicine in the geriatrics division at the Geffen School.

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 researchers don't know the biological pathways connecting bone health and marriage—this will be the next stage in their research. And the findings are limited by the fact that there were no longitudinal assessments of bone density; the findings, therefore, only suggest a correlation, not cause and effect.

Despite these limitations, the findings "provide additional new evidence of the association between psychosocial life histories and adult bone health," the authors write. "The gender differences observed in the association between marital history and [] are consistent with gender differences seen in previous studies of marital status and other aspects of health, and imply that we should not assume that marriage has the same health rewards for men and women.

"Specifically, never marrying, and experiencing a divorce, widowhood, or separation are associated with poor bone health in , whereas poor is associated with poor in women."

Explore further: Study examines the relationship between marriage and alcohol

More information: "Marital histories, marital support, and bone density: findings from the Midlife in the United States Study." D. Miller-Martinez, T. Seeman, A. S. Karlamangla, G. A. Greendale, N. Binkley, C. J. Crandall. Osteoporosis International, January 2014. DOI: 10.1007/s00198-013-2602-4

Related Stories

Study examines the relationship between marriage and alcohol

August 18, 2012
New research examining relationships and the use of alcohol finds that while a long-term marriage appears to curb men's drinking, it's associated with a slightly higher level of alcohol use among women. The study, led by ...

Happily married means a healthier ever after

July 3, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—New BYU research finds that people in happy marriages live less "in sickness" but enjoy more of life "in health."

Romosozumab increases bone mineral density post-menopause

January 6, 2014
(HealthDay)—Romosozumab seems safe and effective for increasing bone mineral density in postmenopausal women with low bone mineral density, according to a study published online Jan. 1 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Married people may be likelier to survive cancer: study

September 24, 2013
(HealthDay)—Married cancer patients are less likely to die of their disease than those who aren't wed, a new study suggests.

New study links healthy muscle mass to healthy bones, finds differences by gender

June 20, 2012
Researchers have long been aware that the progressive loss of muscle mass and bone density is a natural part of aging. But little work has investigated how muscle tissue affects the inner and outer layers of bone microstructure. ...

Recommended for you

Calcium and Vitamin D supplements are not associated with risk of heart attacks

February 16, 2018
New research from the University of Southampton has found no association between the use of calcium or vitamin D supplementation and cardiovascular events such as heart attacks.

Study shows options to decrease risk of motor vehicle crashes for adolescent drivers

February 16, 2018
Adolescents who receive comprehensive and challenging on-road driving assessments prior to taking the license test might be protected from future motor vehicle crashes, according to a University of Alabama at Birmingham study ...

Being a single dad can shorten your life: study

February 15, 2018
The risk of dying prematurely more than doubles for single fathers compared to single mothers or paired-up dads, according to a study of Canadian families published Thursday.

Keeping an eye on the entire ageing process

February 15, 2018
Medical researchers often only focus on a single disease. As older people often suffer from multiple diseases at the same time, however, we need to rethink this approach, writes Ralph Müller.

Gov't says health costs to keep growing faster than economy

February 14, 2018
U.S. health care spending will keep growing faster than the overall economy in the foreseeable future, squeezing public insurance programs and employers who provide coverage, the government said Wednesday.

Muscle more important than fat in regulating heat loss from the hands

February 14, 2018
In the first study of its kind, Cambridge biological anthropologists have shown that muscle mass is able to predict the rate of heat loss from the hands during severe cold exposure, while body mass, stature and fat mass do ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.