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Demographic Analysis: Life expectancy and mortality in different social groups:

Married persons live longer

Statistical news from Statistics Sweden 2018-03-12 14.19

Life expectancy in Sweden has been increasing steadily for a long time. However, from age 65 there are considerable differences in survival among different groups. For instance, married persons have a higher life expectancy than divorced persons, widows, widowers and persons who never married. In a new report from Statistics Sweden, differences in life expectancy are also presented according to level of education, income and country of birth.

In line with an increasing life expectancy in Sweden, more people are growing older and deaths before age 65 are less common. Consequently, it is particularly interesting to follow the development of life expectancy and mortality among older persons. Statistics Sweden has calculated the remaining life expectancy at age 65 for married persons, divorced persons, widows, widowers and persons who never married during the period 1986–2014.

Increasing differences regarding marital status

The remaining life expectancy at age 65 has increased for both women and men between 1986–1988 and 2012–2014, from slightly less than 19 years to slightly more than 21 years for women and from 15 years to slightly less than 19 years for men in total.

Regarding marital status, the remaining life expectancy during the entire period has been highest for married persons. Married persons are also the group that from age 65 have had the largest increase in the number of remaining years. Persons who have never married have had the least increase in the number of remaining years during the period 1986–2014.

 Women  Men
Marital status1986-882012-14Change1986-882012-14Change
Never married 17.9 19.2 1.3 13.4 15.9 2.5
Married 19.6 22.7 3.1 15.7 20 4.3
Divorced 17.9 20.1 2.2 12.9 17 4.1
Widowed 18.6 20.7 2.1 14 17.6 3.6
Total 18.8 21.3 2.5 15 18.7 3.7

There are several explanations as to why married persons live longer than others. Among other things, married persons often have better access to social support and social networks compared to those groups that are not married. Illnesses and different types of unhealthy behaviour that have long been significant for survival are also contributing factors for not marrying.

Those who are not married but have been so, namely divorced persons and widowed persons have experienced the dissolution of a marriage through divorce or death; this can have significance for mortality later in life. However, it is more difficult to explain why married persons have a greater increase in life expectancy than others in recent decades.

Several social factors contribute to differences

There are also considerable differences in remaining life expectancy regarding income and level of education. Persons with higher incomes and higher levels of education have a higher life expectancy than groups with lower incomes and lower levels of education. The differences in mortality among different social groups apply to nearly all ages.

In an in-depth analysis, even more social factors have been included in relation to differences in mortality during a five-year period, 2010–2014: marital status, level of education, income, housing, number of children and country of birth. The countries of birth are broken down into seven different groups.

There is a relationship between most of the social factors; for instance, higher education normally leads to higher income. However, it appears that all factors contribute to differences in mortality even when consideration is taken to these relationships.


The entire report is in Swedish but it includes a summary, graphs and table headings in English.

Feel free to use the facts from this statistical news but remember to state Source: Statistics Sweden.

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Statistics Sweden, Section for Coordination and Interdisciplinary Operations

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Örjan Hemström

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