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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Why having an extra wife may lead to a longer life

By Fiona Macrae

The key to a long life could be as simple as getting a second wife.

Research suggests that men from polygamist cultures live 12 per cent longer than those who limit their affections to one woman at a time.

It is thought men benefit from having a fuss made over them by a gaggle of women.
They may also better care of themselves into old age when they have a large family to feed, this week's New Scientist reports.

Hugh Hefner

Long life: Hugh Hefner, 82, and his three girlfriends - Holly Madison (l), Bridget Marquardt and Kendra Wilkinson (far r)

Sheffield University researchers uncovered the 'benefits' of polygamy by scrutinising World Health Organisation data on marriage practices and on life span.

The analysis shows that men who live in countries where it is common to have more than one wife tend to outlive their monogamous counterparts.

The finding took into account a country's economic situation to minimise the effect of better nutrition and healthcare in monogamous Western nations.

It is thought that the pressure of having to provide for a big families may lead to men taking better care of their bodies and their health. They may also benefit from the care and attention of several wives.

Lance Workman, an evolutionary psychologist at Bath Spa University, said: 'If you have got more wives to look after you, they might fuss over you and that might help you live longer.

'We know that in monogamous societies married men live longer than bachelors.'

Evolution may also have a role to play, with the fierce competition for women in polygamist societies ensuring only the fittest specimens get the girl - and have children.

Good genes would be passed on, endowing good health on future generations.

Dr Workman said: 'If you look at polygamist societies, men are quite competitive towards other men because the pressures are bigger.

'The most successful men can have four or five wives, whereas the least successful don't have any. The females go for bigger, stronger, wiser.'

In some war-like tribes, the men with the most murders on their hands command the most wives, he added.

Chris Wilson, an evolutionary anthropologist from Cornell University in the US, agreed there could be benefits to being surrounded by women in old age.

'It doesn't surprise me that men in those societies live longer than men in monogamous societies where they become widowed and have nobody to care for them,' he said.