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Christine L. Williams, Chair CLA 3.306, Mailcode A1700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-232-6300

Health gap between married and unmarried people narrows, study shows

Debra Umberson and Hui Liu's recent findings published in Journal of Health and Social Behavior and New York Times

Posted: September 23, 2008
A long-standing sociological tenet is that marriage enhances health, a study by a recent Ph.D. graduate, Hui (Cathy) Liu, and professor Debra J. Umberson finds that the health gap between married and unmarried people has changed over the past three decades. Based on 32 years' National Health Interview Survey data, they find that the self-rated health of the never-married has improved over the past three decades. Moreover, the gap between the married and the never married has narrowed over time for men but not for women. In contrast, the self-rated health of the widowed, divorced, and separated worsened over time, relative to the married and the widening health gap between the married and the previously married is more pronounced for women than for me. These results highlight the importance of social change in shaping the impact of marital status on self-reported health and challenge long-held assumptions about gender, marital status, and health. The findings are in the September issue
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