Too much Love will Kill You ... But Marriage Just Might Save You!

by Garreth Myers

To many married couples, marriage represents that fantastic cottage in woods made from chocolate and candy: seemingly delicious, enticing and simply irresistible, but with unknown horrors lurking within. Like Hansel and Gretel though, you could overcome those personal demons and actually live out your fairy tale ending!

Being married can be hard work, and at the worst of times, it could seem stressful enough to give you a mild stroke… but recent studies indicate otherwise. According to a study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, marriage could actually triple your chances of surviving heart surgery. The study compared the survival rates of married adults undergoing heart surgery against those who were single. Heart surgery is not without significant risks, but the most critical period is the postoperative phase, spanning three months from the time of surgery. During this period, there is a high risk of developing serious complications that could even prove fatal. According to the lead author of the study, married adults were three times more likely to survive this critical period.

The differences in survival rates are clearly discernible during this three month window, but marriage seems to exercise a strong protective effect long after. Such differences in recovery and survival were found to be present even five years after the procedure. When observing the outcomes of patients who survived past the three month period, it was also found that single adults were at a 70% higher risk of death within the following five years. So what explains the difference in outcomes? Data gathered from the study offers no explanation for the striking difference in the three-month survival rate; it simply presents us with the facts.

Experts believe that there are a few plausible explanations for these differences. Here are some of their theories:
  • Spouses play a crucial role as caregivers during any kind of health crises. This role may be a lot more critical than one would have previously imagined. The conclusions from the study were also not gender specific; both men and women showed the same survival rates. Apparently husbands can be just as capable caregivers as wives!
  • Emotional health has a huge influence on the outcome of any health crisis, and it most likely exerts a similar influence on recovery after heart surgery as well. While marriage might make you question your sanity at times, it does give you a great deal of emotional stability and a greater sense of well being and happiness. It also implies that there is a lot greater emotional support from one’s spouse, probably explaining why most patients who were married went into the surgery with a much more positive outlook.
  • The differences in long term survival rates, with single adults being 70% less likely to survive, may be attributed to lifestyle. According to the data gathered, the lower survival rates in single patients are in many cases a result of their smoking history. This however, may be yet another advantage for those who’re married, as married persons are much less likely to be smokers. Whoever thought there was an upside to spousal control and nagging!
Maybe love can mend a broken heart after all!

  1. Idler EL, Boulifard DA, Contrada RJ. Mending broken hearts: marriage and survival following cardiac surgery. J Health Soc Behav. 2012 Mar;53(1):33-49. doi: 10.1177/0022146511432342. PubMed PMID: 22382719.

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