Single men or those leading an unhappy married life run a higher risk of fatal stroke in their later decades, says a new study.

The findings are based on a survey of 10,059 civil servants and municipal workers (average age 49) who participated in the Israeli Ischemic Heart Disease Study that started in 1963.

Using the national death registry and other records, researchers tracked the fate of the men through 1997, the last year for which underlying causes of death had been coded.

Among the men who in 1963 were single, 8.4 per cent died of stroke in the following 34 years, compared to 7.1 per cent of the married men.

Considering age at death and adjusting for obesity, blood pressure, smoking habits and family size, as well as existing diabetes and heart disease at the time of the earlier survey, single men had a 64 per cent higher risk of fatal stroke than married men.

That figure is comparable to the risk of fatal stroke faced by men with diabetes, said study author Uri Goldbourt, professor of epidemiology and preventive medicine at Tel Aviv University (TAU), Israel.

Furthermore, in 1965, the married men had been asked to evaluate their marriages as very successful, quite successful, not so successful, or unsuccessful.

In an analysis of the 3.6 per cent of men who had reported dissatisfaction in their marriage, adjusted risk of a fatal stroke was also 64 per cent higher, compared with men who considered their marriages very successful.

“I had not expected that unsuccessful marriage would be of this statistical importance,” said Goldbourt, a professor of epidemiology and preventive medicine at Tel Aviv University in Israel, said its release.

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