In Sickness and in Health – the Role of Marital Partners in Cancer Survival

Astri Syse, Statistics Norway
Torkild Hovde Lyngstad, University of Oslo

Married cancer patients have a survival advantage, perhaps due to better health, earlier contact with health personnel, or superior treatment. Suggested mechanisms typically invoke the mere presence of a partner. Partners’ varying resources may, however, produce differentials in survival net of own resources. We aim to examine the role of marital partners’ sociodemographic characteristics for cancer survival. Data on complete birth cohorts and marital partners were obtained from various national registers. 268 000 married patients diagnosed with cancer after age 50 during 1975-2007 were included to study gross differences in survival by own and spouse’s education, income and age. Survival of patients with highly educated partners is significantly higher than that of patients with lesser-educated partners, for both men and women. The effects of spouses’ income and age differences are less consistent. As partners’ characteristics play a role, considering only the presence of partners may conceal important survival differences.

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Presented in Session 6: Gender Issues in Health and Mortality