Motor Vehicle Deaths among Men: Marital Status, Gender and Social Integration

By Kposowa, Augustine J.; Breault, Kevin D. | International Journal of Men's Health, Summer 2009 | Go to article overview

Motor Vehicle Deaths among Men: Marital Status, Gender and Social Integration


Kposowa, Augustine J., Breault, Kevin D., International Journal of Men's Health


The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of marital status on mortality from motor vehicle accidents among men. The framework for the analysis was social integration and control theory. The sample comprised 450,483 men and women from the United States who were followed for a period of nine years. Cox Regression models were fitted to the data. During the follow-up period, 596 persons died from motor vehicle accidents. Divorced and separated persons were over 62 percent more likely to die from motor vehicle accidents than were their married counterparts. Men were nearly 2.6 times as likely to die from motor vehicle crashes as women. Education was a strong predictor of motor vehicle deaths. In general, the lower the level of education, the higher the mortality risk. It was concluded, in support of social integration and control theories, that being divorced is also an important risk factor for motor vehicle accident mortality.

Keywords: motor vehicle deaths, men, marital status differences, gender differences

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Previous studies have reported that marital status is associated with high morbidity and mortality (Hu & Goldman, 1990; Jaffe et al., 2007; Johnson et al., 2000; Kaplan & Kronick, 2006; Walderon et al., 1997). Overall, unmarried persons have higher mortality and report poorer health outcomes than those who are married. With regard to motor vehicle accidents, recent research has similarly shown that unmarried, divorced and single persons have more accidents, more severe accidents, and more accident injuries (Cheung, 1999; Songer et al., 1988; Songer & Dorsey, 2006; Lagarde et al., 2004; Whitlock et al., 2004). Earlier research based on U.S. mortality tables (Gove, 1973) found that men and divorced, single and widowed persons generally have higher motor vehicle accident mortality rates than women and those who are married. Although the Gove study reported substantial disparities in mortality from motor vehicle accidents, it failed to control for the effects of any other variable, except age. Thus, it is unclear whether the magnitude of differences would have remained the same had the potentially confounding effects of socioeconomic and other covariates been taken into account.

Using 1992 U.S. mortality data, Kposowa and Adams (1998) observed that divorced persons were more likely to die from traffic accidents than married persons (OR = 1.2, 95 percent CI = 1.0-1.3), but the study was cross-sectional, using data from one year of observation, and the control group was limited to persons who had died from natural causes. Thus, findings were not based on the risk of death from accidents versus non-deaths, but death from accidents versus death from causes other than accidents. Finally, despite a relatively large sample, the researchers did not explore whether the effect of marital status on mortality varied by gender. Thus, the main point of the present study is to reevaluate the use of social integration theory to study motor vehicle mortality in a methodologically more robust manner.

Interpretations about the link between marital status and motor vehicle accidents have often relied on social integration theory (Cheung, 1999; Gove, 1973; Kposowa & Adams, 1998). As proposed by Durkheim (1897/2002) and other social scientists in the middle to late 19th century (Morselli, 1881 ; Winslow, 1840), social integration refers to the quantity and quality of ties that bind individuals to others, to their community, and to society. It indexes the degree of cohesion in social and interpersonal ties (Breault, 1986; Stack, 2000). The association of well-being and social integration, including mortality, has been shown in various studies (Berkman & Kawachi 2000; Berkman & Syme 1979; House et al. 1988). From this perspective, marriage constitutes a bond that ties individuals to others, to social networks, and to the wider community. Those who are not married and those who are divorced or separated have few stakes in society and as a result are more likely to exhibit risky behavior. …

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