Score another point for the pro-marriage crowd. New research has found married adults who undergo heart surgery are more than three times as likely as unmarried cardiac patients to survive the critical first three months after the procedure.
Emory University scientists, reporting in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, said the findings underscore the important role of spouses and partners as caregivers during health crises.
And just in case you were wondering: Men were just as good at providing support as women, researchers said.
While researchers found the most striking difference in survival occurred during the first three months, the study showed the health benefits of marriage continue for up to five years following coronary artery bypass surgery. Overall, the risk of mortality is nearly twice as great for unmarried people as it is for married patients who undergo the surgery.
"That's a dramatic difference in survival rates for single people, during the most critical post-operative recovery period," said 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."
The Emory study involved more than 500 patients undergoing emergency or elective heart surgery. All of the study subjects were interviewed prior to surgery. Data on survival status of the patients were obtained from the National Death Index.
Interviews with patients provided researchers for some clues to what may account for marriage’s health benefits.
"The married patients had a more positive outlook going into the surgery, compared with the single patients," Idler said. "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."