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Patterns: Spouses Also Share State of Health
By Eric Nagourney
Want a snapshot of your health? Try looking across the breakfast table. A new study finds a strong association between the health of husbands and wives.
The study, in the October issue of Social Science & Medicine, said a man in his early 50’s in excellent health had about a 5 percent chance of being married to someone whose health was only fair. He has a 2 percent chance of being married to a woman in poor health. But a man in poor health, the researchers found, has a 24 percent chance of being married to a woman in fair health and a 13 percent chance of being married to a woman in poor health.
The author of the study, Dr. Sven E. Wilson, an economist at Brigham Young University, said there were many possible reasons for the findings, one as simple as human nature. “We don’t marry random people,” Dr. Wilson said. “We marry kind of like us.”
But many other factors may also play a role. Some are economic: poor and less educated people tend to be in worse health. Married people are also more likely to follow the same kinds of diets, for better or for worse, or to smoke if their spouse does. And if one spouse is ill, the stress this creates may affect the health of the other. Couples also share environmental risks, Dr. Wilson said, breathing the same air and being exposed to the same germs.
The study was based on data collected from more than 4,700 couples in their 50’s who took part in a 1992 nationwide survey. Dr. Wilson said its findings suggest that medical providers treating ill patients should broaden their gaze. “We treat illness and disease as something that happens to individuals,” he said. “ It doesn’t. It happens to families.”
(Extraído de http:// www.nytimes.com/2002/09/10/health/10PATT.html)
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