Get Married For Heart Health
March 7, 2012 by Sam Rolley
Being married, it turns out, can be good for your heart health.
A new study that appears in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior this month finds that married adults who undergo heart surgery are three times as likely as single patients to survive the three months following the procedure.
“That’s a dramatic difference in survival rates for single people, during the most critical post-operative recovery period,” says Ellen Idler, a sociologist at Emory University and lead author of the study. “We found that marriage boosted survival whether the patient was a man or a woman.”
Though the most striking difference in outcomes between married and unmarried patients occurred during the first three months, the study demonstrated a strong protective effect of marriage that continues for up to five years following coronary artery bypass surgery. The chance of death is nearly twice as great for unmarried as it is for married patients about to undergo the surgery.
The study followed more than 500 patients undergoing either emergency or elective coronary bypass surgery. All subjects were interviewed prior to surgery. Data on survival status of the patients were obtained from the National Death Index.
“The married patients had a more positive outlook going into the surgery, compared with the single patients,” Idler says. “When asked whether they would be able to manage the pain and discomfort, or their worries about the surgery, those who had spouses were more likely to say, yes.”
The patients who survived more than three months were about 70 percent more likely to die during the next five years if they were single.
The researchers say that even though marriage appears to be strong medicine for healing hearts, it is in short supply. The Pew Research Center indicates only about half of adults in the United States are married, the lowest number ever.