Research published in the American Heart Journal shows that married individuals fared better in the year following a heart procedure called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), which involves clearing blocked blood vessels that lead to the heart.
Over a time period of 1993 to 2011, the study reviewed 11,216 patients who underwent PCI and compared characteristics between married and unmarried patients. Researchers adjusted for cardiovascular risk factors such as smoking and high cholesterol, and the average age was 64.
The study found “significant differences” in characteristics, such as lower prevalence of hypertension, diabetes, and smoking – and concluded that both short- and long-term outcomes up to one year were better for those who were married than for those who were single.
The single individuals were more likely to have major heart problems such as a heart attack, requiring another angioplasty, and even death. About 13 percent of singles experienced major cardiovascular events one year after the procedure, in comparison to the 8.2 percent of married individuals.
“These findings should heighten awareness of physicians to socioeconomic risk factors beyond the standard cardiovascular disease risk factors and may encourage domestic partners to be more engaged in the health care process after cardiac interventions,” Dr. Ron Waksman, senior author of the study, told Reuters.
The health benefits of marriage have been discussed and studied in the past. Various studies have found that marriage may help decrease the risk of cancer, prevent people from engaging in risky behavior, and helps increase sexual behavior.
"We often think about the aging process as something we can treat medically with a pill or more exercise, but working on your marriage also might benefit your health as you age," Christine Proulx, assistant professor at the University of Missouri Department of Human Development and Family Studies, said in a press release about a study she conducted. "Engaging with your spouse is not going to cure cancer, but building stronger relationships can improve both people's spirits and well-being and lower their stress."
When it comes to heart procedures and even overall health, some theories say that married people fare better than singles because spouses may take care of one another better than people living alone take care of themselves. People who have little to no social support may be less likely to adhere to healthy behaviors and medical needs.