Is marriage good for the heart?
Giving your heart to a supportive spouse turns out to be an excellent way to stay alive, according to new research.
A study from the University of Rochester has found that happily married people who undergo coronary bypass surgery are more than three times as lively to be alive 15 years later as they unmarried counterparts.
“There is something in a good relationship that helps people stay on track, healthwise,” says Kathleen King, professor emerita from the School of Nursing at the University of Rochester and lead author on the paper. In fact, the effect of marital satisfaction is “every bit as important to survival after bypass surgery as more traditional risk factors like tobacco use, obesity, and high blood pressure,” adds coauthor Harry Reis, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester.
Higher survival rates
Interestingly, the marriage advantage plays out differently for men and women. For men, marriage in general is linked to higher survival rates and the more satisfying the marriage, the higher the rate of survival. For women, the quality of the relationship is even more important. While unhappy marriages provide virtually no survival bonus for women, satisfying unions increase a woman's survival rate almost fourfold, the study found.
“Wives need to feel satisfied in their relationships to reap a health dividend,” explains Reis. “But the payoff for marital bliss is even greater for women than for men.”
The study supports earlier research showing that people with lower hostility in their marriages have less of the kind of inflammation that is linked to heart disease, which may help explain why people in this study benefited from satisfying marriages.