While research has suggested that being married may confer a health advantage, few studies to date have investigated the role of marital status in the development of type 2 diabetes. We examined whether men who are not married have increased risk of incident type 2 diabetes in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Men (n = 41,378) who were free of T2D in 1986, were followed for ≤22 years with biennial reports of T2D, marital status and covariates. Cox proportional hazard models were used to compare risk of incident T2D by marital status (married vs unmarried and married vs never married, divorced/separated, or widowed). There were 2,952 cases of incident T2D. Compared to married men, unmarried men had a 16% higher risk of developing T2D (95%CI:1.04,1.30), adjusting for age, family history of diabetes, ethnicity, lifestyle and body mass index (BMI). Relative risks (RR) for developing T2D differed for divorced/separated (1.09 [95%CI: 0.94,1.27]), widowed (1.29 [95%CI:1.06,1.57]), and never married (1.17 [95%CI:0.91,1.52]) after adjusting for age, family history of diabetes and ethnicity. Adjusting for lifestyle and BMI, the RR for T2D associated with widowhood was no longer significant (RR:1.16 [95%CI:0.95,1.41]). When allowing for a 2-year lag period between marital status and disease, RRs of T2D for widowers were augmented and borderline significant (RR:1.24 [95%CI:1.00,1.54]) after full adjustment. In conclusion, not being married, and more specifically, widowhood was more consistently associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes in men and this may be mediated, in part, through unfavorable changes in lifestyle, diet and adiposity.
Cornelis, M. C., Chiuve, S. E., Maria Glymour, M., Chang, S. C., Tchetgen Tchetgen, E. J., Liang, L., … Kubzansky, L. D. (2014). Bachelors, divorcees, and widowers: Does marriage protect men from type 2 diabetes? PLoS ONE, 9(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0106720