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Sheana Ramcharan, ANT418: Seminar in Biological Anthropology
Faculty Mentor(s): Professor Julie Wieczkowski, Anthropology

A correlation between marital status and cause of death can reveal a deeper understanding of the effects that losing a life partner has on an individual. The widowhood effect, more often found in males, refers to the premature death of an individual after death of their spouse. Using scans of the Death Register from the Margaret L. Wendt Archives and Resource Center at Forest Lawn Cemetery, I collected causes of death for 102 adult males 20 years or older of each marital status (34 married, 34 unmarried, and 34 widowed) to determine if there was a difference in causes of death based on marital status. The causes of death were grouped into categories based on the type of death/associated organs (heart, brain, lung, kidney, cancer, medical/infectious, other). The most common cause of death for each marital status were married males: heart related (23.5%), unmarried males: lung related (32.4%), and widowed males: heart related (32.4%). These percentages mean that there were not separate causes of death associated with each marital status. The results indicate that there was no definitive correlation between marital status and cause of death in adult males 20 years or older. These results do not support the widowhood effect in which individuals suffer from a decline in immune response and engage in unhealthy behaviors after loss of a spouse leading to premature death. Future studies may indicate a relationship between marital status and cause of death by controlling for age to get a clearer result.

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Relationship Between Marital Status and Cause of Death in Males
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