Being married may reduce your risk of dying after cardiac surgery

Married patient

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have found that being married greatly increases your chances of recovering smoothly from cardiac surgery.

Their study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at almost 1,600 patients over the age of 50 who underwent serious cardiac surgery. The results showed that unmarried patients were 40% more likely to develop a disability or die within two years of having the procedure.

It’s not entirely clear what about marriage helps shape recovery. Study co-author Dr. Mark Neuman clarified that the results were not prescriptive.

“While it has been established that the chances of survival following major surgery may be better among married versus unmarried persons, it is not known how marriage ‘marries’ with actual postoperative function.”

Dr. Ashish Shah, the head of heart transplantation at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, spoke to ABC News about the findings. While he was not involved in this study, he has seen others that echo its conclusion. Shah believes that more research needs to be done to explain why married surgery patients do better in the longterm, but he does think that emotional support may be the key.

“There’s always been the feeling that people who have [a person] that is supporting them tend to do better,” he said. “Most heart surgeons would agree that emotional stressors will complicate operations.”

For now scientists are still trying to figure out what the correlation is between marriage and recovery, and how those results can be mimicked in unmarried patients.