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As estimated resident population (ERP) by marital status is only available for Census years, the most recent standardised death rates (SDRs) by marital status are for 2006. In the calculation of SDRs by marital status the number of deaths and the population aged 15 years and over is used.
SDRs by registered marital status show that males and females who had never married had higher SDRs (12.8 and 8.0 deaths per 1,000 standard population respectively) than their married counterparts (8.1 and 5.0 respectively). Men and women who were widowed had similar death rates to those who were divorced.
That married people have lower mortality than never married, widowed and divorced people, has been observed in many studies over time and in different countries (Lillard & Panis 1996). The reasons for this have been debated for over 100 years (Farr 1858). Two main explanations have been put forward. The first suggests that marriage improves a person's health status, thus reducing the risk of an earlier death. Married people are less likely to participate in risky behaviour and more likely to nurture each other's health through promoting good diet and physical care. The second explanation states that differentials are based on selection of healthier individuals into marriage. Particularly in a country like Australia, where registered marriage is far from universal, selectivity is likely to be an important factor.