Among more than 1,500 adults who underwent a cardiac intervention, those who were divorced, separated or widowed were more likely to have died or develop a new functional disability after the surgery, compared with the married participants.
A previous survey of 127,545 American adults found that married men are healthier and live longer, especially those who marry after age 25; and the longer a man stays married, the greater his survival advantage.
In terms of heart health, a Japanese study has claimed that men who never marry are three times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease, while another 10-year US study of 3,682 men found a 46% lower risk of heart disease in married men.
Dr. Mark Neuman and colleagues, of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, used data from the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study, which has enrolled 29,053 adults aged 50 years or older since 1998.
The participants undergo interviews every 2 years regarding health, functioning, medical care and family structure. The team studied participants who had undergone cardiac surgery since the preceding interview.
Unmarried people have 40% higher chance of poor outcome
The researchers gathered information on marital status, age, sex and existing comorbidities, as well as ability to carry out six activities of daily living independently: dressing, ambulation, bathing, eating, toileting and getting in and out of bed.
Of 1,576 participants, 65% were married at the time of entering the study, 12% were divorced or separated, 21% were widowed and 2% had never been married.
Married participants were more likely to be male and to demonstrate lower levels of other illnesses and disability before surgery.
At the time of the interview after the surgery, the percentage of people who had either died or developed a new disability was: 19% of married participants, 29% of divorced or separated individuals, 34% of widowed participants and 20% of participants who had never been married.
Developing a new disability was classed as losing the ability to perform an activity of daily living independently, such as dressing, walking or eating.
The results show a significant link between marital status and death or a new functional disability. Participants who were divorced, separated or widowed had an approximately 40% greater chance of dying or developing a new functional disability during the first 2 years after cardiac surgery, compared with the married participants.
The findings support prior work that has suggested a better chance of survival after major surgery among married persons, but little is known regarding the association between marital status and postoperative function.
According to the authors:
“Survival advantages for married people may relate to the role of social supports in influencing patients’ choices of hospitals and their self-care.”
Reasons proposed in the past have included levels of social support and biological factors, among others. One study found that for 66% of men, their wives are their primary social support; if their spouse leaves or dies, they have no support. Conflict and stress lead to higher adrenaline levels, higher blood pressure and inflammation, which is detrimental to cardiac health in the long term. Loneliness and the stress of divorce or widowhood could play a role.
The researchers call for further efforts to establish the mechanisms linking marital status and postoperative outcomes in order to counsel patients and identify at-risk groups for whom targeted interventions could aid recovery.
A limitation of the study was that the married and unmarried participants may have differed in ways that were not observable in the study data.
Medical News Today previously reported that married lung cancer patients have a better chance of survival than those who are unmarried.
Written by Yvette Brazier
Courtesy : medicalnewstoday.com