A new study suggests that married people who have experienced a heart attack, or who are at an increased risk, have a better chance of surviving heart disease when compared to unmarried ones. This, scientists say, could be due to the availability of a close support network.
The findings of several studies on the effect of marriage on health are often encouraging, suggesting that the closeness of married partners can have an important and beneficial psychosocial influence.
A few papers have reported previously that married life can improve cancer survival rates. Likewise, a study presented last weekend at the European Society of Cardiology Congress, held in Barcelona, Spain, now suggests that married people also have a better survival rate when it comes to heart disease and heart attacks.
Marriage has a protective role
Of the almost 930,000 people admitted to receive hospital care between 2000 and 2013, 25,287 had previously had a heart attack, 168,431 had hypertension, 53,055 exhibited high levels of cholesterol, and 68,098 had type 2 diabetes.
Lead author Dr. Paul Carter and other colleagues from the Aston Medical School in Birmingham, United Kingdom found that marriage was a protective factor for people who had experienced a heart attack, as well as for those who had an increased risk of heart disease.
Married people who had had a heart attack were 14 percent more likely to survive than single individuals under the same circumstance. Also, people with high cholesterol who were married were also 16 percent more likely to be alive as at the end of the study period in 2013.
People with diabetes had a 14 percent higher survival rate if they were married, and married people with hypertension comparatively had a 10 percent higher survival rate.
The role of support networks in surviving heart disease
Speaking on the theory behind these findings, Dr Paul Carter said:
“Marriage, and having a spouse at home, is likely to offer emotional and physical support on a number of levels [such as] encouraging patients to live healthier lifestyles, helping them to cope with the condition, and helping them to comply to their medical treatments.”
The same health benefits were, however, not found to be applicable to divorcees. “The nature of a relationship is important and there is a lot of evidence that stress and stressful life events, such as divorce, are linked to heart disease. With this in mind, we also found that divorced patients with high blood pressure or a previous heart attack had lower survival rates than married patients with the same condition,” explains Dr. Carter.
Senior study author Dr. Rahul Potluri, founder of the ACALM study unit, suggests that the findings may even be more relevant to patients who are at particularly high risk of suffering from heart diseases in that they are silently living with conditions that increase their risk of a heart attack without experiencing any symptoms.
“It’s important that patients with these dangerous, but preventable, risk factors follow the lifestyle and medication advice of their doctors to limit this risk, and social support networks are vital in doing so. This study confirms the importance of these psychosocial factors in patients with cardiovascular disease as a whole,” concludes Dr. Potluri.