, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 3–39 | Cite as

Wer ist das schwache Geschlecht? Zur Sterblichkeit von Männern und Frauen innerhalb und außerhalb der Ehe

  • Jens Alber

Who is the weaker sex? On the mortality of men and women inside and outside of marriage


In the middle of the life-cycle unmarried persons have much higher death rates than married ones. The differential is significantly greater for men than for women. A comparative historical data collection shows that this pattern of gendered inequality persisted from the 1920s over the 1970s to the 1990s. Comparing the gender-specific death rates within a given marital status, the highest gender gaps in mortality are reached in case of divorce or bereavement, where the male death rate is usually more than three times higher than the female one. The gendered reaction to the loss of the spouse calls for a sociological explanation. Abstracting from selection effects, a wide range of hypotheses is considered ranging from feminist sociology to socio-biologist ideas. The central hypothesis advanced here is that men die over-proportionately in case of divorce or bereavement, because they are more dependent upon the sexual and emotional attachment to their spouse, whereas women more frequently have emotionally rewarding contacts to other persons outside the conjugal relationship.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Beauvoir, Simone de, 1968 [1949]: Das andere Geschlecht. Sitte und Sexus der Frau, Hamburg: Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag.Google Scholar
  2. Beckett, Megan K. und Marc N. Elliott, 2002: Does the Association Between Marital Status and Health Vary by Sex, Race, and Ethnicity?, Santa Monica: RAND Corporation (mimeo).Google Scholar
  3. Bowlby, John, 1981: Loss: Sadness and Depression, Vol. 3 of Attachment and Loss, Harmonds-worth: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  4. Buss, David M., 1989a: Sex differences in human mate preferences: Evolutionary hypotheses tested in 37 cultures, in: Behavioral and Brain Sciences 12(1), S. 1–14.Google Scholar
  5. Buss, David M., 1989b: Toward an evolutionary psychology of human mating, in: Behavioral and Brain Sciences 12(1), S. 39–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chodorow, Nancy, 1978: The Reproduction of Mothering, Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  7. Chodorow, Nancy, 1989: Feminism and Psychoanalytic Theory, Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  8. Clark, Russell D. und Elaine Hatfield, 1989: Gender Differences in Receptivity to Sexual Offers, in: Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality 2(1), S. 39–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Creveld, Martin van, 2003: Das bevorzugte Geschlecht, München: Gerling Akademie Verlag.Google Scholar
  10. Davis, Simon, 1990: Men as Success Objects and Women as Sex Objects: A Study of Personal Advertisements, in: Sex Roles 23(1/2), S. 43–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Durkheim, Emile, 1987 [1897]: Der Selbstmord. Dt. von Hanne und Sebastian Herkommer, Neuwied/Berlin: Luchterhand-Verlag.Google Scholar
  12. Feingold, Alan, 1990: Gender differences in effects of physical attractiveness on romantic attraction: A comparison across five research paradigms, in: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 59, S. 981–993.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Feingold, Alan, 1992: Gender Differences in Mate Selection Preferences: A Test of the Parental Investment Model, in: Psychological Bulletin 112(1), S. 125–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fuchs, Victor R., 1983: Who Shall Live? Health Economics and Social Choice, New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  15. Gilligan, Carol, 1982: In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Gove, Walter R., 1972: Sex, Marital Status and Suicide, in: Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Vol. 13(2), S. 204–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gove, Walter R., 1973: Sex, Marital Status, and Mortality, in: American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 79(1), S. 45–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gove, Walter R., Hee-Choon Shin, 1989: The Psychological Well-Being of Divorced and Widowed Men and Women. An Empirical Analysis, in: Journal of Family Issues, Vol. 10(1), S. 122–144.Google Scholar
  19. Gray, John, 1992: Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, New York: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  20. Hirsch, Fred, 1976: Social Limits to Growth, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  21. House, James S., Karl R. Landis und Debra Umberson, 1988: Social Relationships and Health, in: Science 341, S. 540–545.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Huppert, Felicia A. und Joyce E. Whittington, 1995: Symptoms of psychological distress predict 7-year mortality, in: Psychological Medicine 25, S. 1073–1086.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hyde, Janet Shibley, 1990: Meta-Analysis and the Psychology of Gender Differences, in: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 16(1), S. 55–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jónasdóttir, Anna G., 1991: Love Power and Political Interests. Towards a Theory of Patriarchy in Contemporary Western Societies, Örebro Studies 7, Örebro: University of Örebro, Sweden.Google Scholar
  25. Korpi, Walter, 2000: Faces of Inequality: Gender, Class, and Patterns of Inequalities in Different Types of Welfare States, in: Social Politics, Vol. 7, S. 127–191.Google Scholar
  26. Kruse, Edgar, 2000: Sterblichkeit und fernere Lebenserwartung von Versicherten rentnern der gesetzlichen Rentenversicherung — Aktuelle Ergebnisse einer Sterbetafelberechnung für 1996/1998. Deutsche Rentenversicherung Heft 3–4, März/April, S. 121–138.Google Scholar
  27. Laumann, Edward O., John H. Gagnon, Robert T. Michael und Stuart Michaels, 1994: The Social Organization of Sexuality. Sexual Practices in the United States, Chicago/London: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  28. Maier, Heiner und Jacqui Smith, 1999: Psychological predictors of mortality in old age, in: Journal of Gerontology Series B-Psychological Sciences & Social Sciences 54(1), S. 44–54.Google Scholar
  29. Maier, Heiner und James W. Vaupel, 2000: Human Longevity: Trends and Determinants. Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Paper prepared for: R.K. Silbereisen et al. (Hrsg.), Bericht über den 42. Kongress der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Psychologie in Jena 2000.Google Scholar
  30. Oliver, Mary Beth und Janet Shibley Hyde, 1993: Gender Differences in Sexuality: A Meta-Analysis, in: Psychological Bulletin 114(1), S. 29–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Peck, Michael D., 2001: Looking Back at Life and Its Influence on Subjective Well-Being, in: Journal of Gerontological Social Work 35(2).Google Scholar
  32. Pines, Ayala Malach, 1999: Falling in Love: Why We Choose the Lovers We Choose, New York/London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  33. Prinzing, Friedrich, 1930f.: Die Sterblichkeit nach dem Familienstand, in: Friedrich Prinzing, Handbuch der medizinischen Statistik, 2. Aufl., 2. Halbband, Jena, S. 417–423.Google Scholar
  34. Reil-Held, Anette, 2002: Die Rolle intergenerationaler Transfers in Einkommen und Vermögen älterer Menschen in Deutschland, Mannheim: Fakultät für Volkswirtschaftslehre, Dissertation (mimeo).Google Scholar
  35. Rothstein, Bo, 2002: Explaining Modern Patriarchy. A Theory of Asymmetric Mate Selection. Göteborg University, Department of Political Science (mimeo).Google Scholar
  36. Rubin, L.B., 1983: Intimate Strangers: Men and Women Together, New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  37. Rubin, Zick, Letitia Anne Peplau und Charles T. Hill, 1981: Loving and Leaving: Sex Differences in Romantic Attachments, in: Sex Roles 7(8), S. 821–834.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Shumaker, Sally A. und D. Robin Hill, 1991: Gender Differences in Social Support and Physical Health, in: Health Psychology, Vol. 10(2), S. 102–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Smith, Eleanor R., Michael A. Becker, Donn Byrne und David P.J. Przybyla, 1993: Sexual Attitudes of Males and Females as Predictors of Interpersonal Attraction and Marital Compatibility, in: Journal of Applied Social Psychology 23(13), S. 1011–1034.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Statistisches Bundesamt, 1981: Statistisches Jahrbuch für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Stuttgart: Kohlhammer.Google Scholar
  41. Statistisches Bundesamt, 2002: Statistisches Jahrbuch 2002 für das Ausland, Wiesbaden (PDF-Version).Google Scholar
  42. United Nations, 1998: Demographic Yearbook 1996, Vol. 48, New York: United Nations.Google Scholar
  43. United Nations, 1975: Demographic Yearbook 1974, Vol. 26, New York: United Nations.Google Scholar
  44. Zick, Cathleen D., Smith, Ken R., 1991: Marital Transitions, Poverty, and Gender Differences in Mortality, in: Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 53, S. 327–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Zuckerman, Diana M., Stanislav V. Kasl und Adrian M. Ostfeld, 1984: Psychosocial Predictors of Mortality Among the Elderly Poor, in: American Journal of Epidemiology 119(3), S. 410–423.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften/Wiesbaden 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jens Alber

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations