A happy marriage helps in heart attack recovery? A new study out of the University of Rochester reports an emphatic yes. Researchers looked at 225 patients who had coronary bypass surgery in the years ranging from 1987 to 1990. Of the 124 people who survived for at least the next 15 years, 61 percent were married patients, while 30 percent were single. And those stats were for both unhappy and happy couples. For happy marriages, the 15-year survival rate shot up to 83 percent. A pretty good reason to partner up, huh?
The thorny part is that researchers can’t quite pinpoint why this positive marriage/successful recovery rate relationship exists. Some theories have been floated such as a marriage gives you a sense of purpose and the other person becomes essentially your reason to live. Another caveat of this study was also the small amount of women included in it, and that the wide statistical difference in married versus unmarried shrunk significantly when the data was adjusted for age. So maybe this recovery benefit, as is the general health benefit of long-term marriages, was greater for men. Things that makes you go, hmmmm.
There’s hope for the lifelong bachelor and bachelorettes, though. Just leaning on a friend or loved one during recovery can greatly help your chances of long-term survival. Researchers from Ohio State University studied the effect of social isolation on mice after surviving a heart attack. Socially isolated mice that underwent cardiac arrest suffered higher degrees of emotional, neurological and cardiac dysfunction than socially active mice that also underwent cardiac arrest.
Previous research has shown that social isolation is detrimental to heart attack survivors. Decreased blood flow to the brain causes irregular brain function, which can lead to emotional dysfunction and the development of depression. Depression has been found to increase brain damage in cardiac patients, decreasing the neurological control of the heart and, ultimately, the heart’s ability to heal successfully. Similar studies that utilized human subjects support this theory. So don’t be afraid to lean on family and friends during periods of recovery, it just might prolong your life significantly.