The Heart Healing Power of Marriage

Coronary bypass surgery survival higher among married adults

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) In addition to the obvious companionship benefit that comes from marriage, married couples also appear to receive a boost in longevity after heart surgery.

Adults who have tied the knot are more than three times as likely to survive 90 days following coronary artery bypass surgery to open blocked arteries as compared to their single counterparts.

"Ensure you have a support system in place after heart surgery."

Ellen Idler, a sociologist at Emory University and lead author of the study, called the difference in survival rates during the most critical post-operative recovery period "dramatic." She said the findings indicated survival was boosted regardless of whether the married patient was a man or a woman.

Previous studies have suggested that marriage could lead to longer life. Idler initiated the study to determine if the same was true during a major health crisis.

During the study researchers interviewed more than 500 patients prior to emergency or elective coronary artery bypass surgery. They also reviewed their full medical record, including their recent hospitalization. Survival status data was collected from the National Death Index.

Though the reason behind the longevity was not clear, they found that married individuals were substantially more likely to survive three months. To a lesser extent that protective effect continued for five years following the operation.

"The married patients had a more positive outlook going into the surgery, compared with the single patients," Idler noted. "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."

Overall, they found that unmarried patients were 70 percent more likely to die during the next five years. The smoking history of single individuals was blamed for much of the lower survival rate, suggesting that among married patients spouses may provide added encouragement or pressure to quit smoking.

Though marriage appears to improve longevity, it is currently at a record low. The Pew Research Center reports that only about half of U.S. adults are currently married.

The study, funded by the National Institute on Aging, was published in the March issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

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Review Date: 
March 6, 2012
Last Updated:
March 6, 2012