The wonders of having someone to spend your life with has been proven to help the heart to be happy, but be healthy as well, a recent study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior reveals. According to research led by Ellen Idler, a sociologist at Emory University, there’s a significant difference between single people and married people post-operation.
In fact, married patients are three times more likely to survive heart surgery versus single ones. Idler’s study looked at 500 patients before getting emergency or elective coronary bypass surgery. Then, using survival data from the National Death Index, the researchers studied the patients’ responses to survival.
The researchers found out that married patients survived beyond the initial three-month recovery period and could even survive for as long as up to five years after the surgery. Single patients were 71 percent more likely to die within the same five-year period.
While the researchers couldn’t determine exactly what improved the married patients’ survival rate, interviews with the spouses were insightful. “The married patients had a more positive outlook going into the surgery, compared with the single patients,” Idler says in a statement. This shows just how important their role is as caregivers to their partners.
They also shared their ability to cope with the surgery. “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 married patients were also less likely to smoke. The lower five-year survival rate of single patients can be partially attributed to their history of smoking.
Notes Richard Contrata, one of the study’s authors and a professor of psychology at Rutgers University, the social support provided by spouses to one another during stressful times may be the reason behind the long-term survival rates. “Marriage may promote health through companionship,” says Contrada. “This is not as well understood, but it could involve emotional benefits of being physically close, holding and touching, and by sharing mentally- and behaviorally-engaging activities.”