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Background: A comprehensive depiction of long-term health impacts of marital status is lacking. Methods: Sex-stratified phenome-wide association analyses (PheWAS) of marital status (living with vs. without a spouse) were performed using baseline (2004–2008) and follow-up information (ICD10-coded events till Dec 31, 2017) from the China Kadoorie Biobank (CKB). We estimated adjusted hazard ratios (aHRs) to evaluate the associations of marital status with morbidity risks of phenome-wide significant diseases or sex-specific top-10 death causes in China documented in 2017. Additionally, the association between marital status and mortality risks among participants with major chronic diseases at baseline was assessed. Findings: During up to 11.1 years of the median follow-up period, 1,946,380 incident health events were recorded among 210,202 men and 302,521 women aged 30–79. Marital status was found to have phenome-wide significant associations with thirteen diseases among men (p < 9.92 × 10−5) and nine diseases among women (p < 9.33 × 10−5), respectively. After adjusting for all disease-specific covariates in the final model, participants living without a spouse showed increased risks of schizophrenia, schizotypal and delusional disorders (aHR [95% CI]: 2.55, [1.83–3.56] for men; 1.49, [1.13–1.97] for women) compared with their counterparts. Additional higher risks in overall mental and behavioural disorder (1.31, 1.13–1.53), cardiovascular disease (1.07, 1.04–1.10) and cancer (1.06, 1.00–1.12) were only observed among men without a spouse, whereas women living without a spouse were at lower risks of developing genitourinary diseases (0.89, 0.85–0.93) and injury & poisoning (0.93, 0.88–0.97). Among 282,810 participants with major chronic diseases at baseline, 39,166 deaths were recorded. Increased mortality risks for those without a spouse were observed in 12 of 21 diseases among male patients and one of 23 among female patients. For patients with any self-reported disease at baseline, compared with those living with a spouse, the aHRs (95% CIs) of mortality risk were 1.29 (1.24–1.34) and 1.04 (1.00–1.07) among men and women without a spouse (pinteraction<0.0001), respectively. Interpretation: Long-term associations of marital status with morbidity and mortality risks are diverse among middle-aged Chinese adults, and the adverse impacts due to living without a spouse are more profound among men. Marital status may be an influential factor for health needs. Funding: The National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Kadoorie Charitable Foundation, the National Key R&D Program of China, the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology, and the UK Wellcome Trust.

Original publication




Journal article


The Lancet Regional Health - Western Pacific

Publication Date