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Happily married? That's good news if you're undergoing bypass

August 22, 2011|By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Being married--especially happily married--may lead to a longer life following coronary bypass surgery, a study finds
Being married--especially happily married--may lead to a longer life… (Robert Lachman / Los Angeles…)

Marriage may benefit the heart--literally. A study finds that married men and women have higher survival rates following coronary bypass surgery if they're married. If they're happily married, the odds go up even more.

The study focused on 225 men and women who underwent bypass surgery between 1987 and 1990. They were asked about their marital status and how happy they were in those marriages.

After following the study participants for 15 years after surgery, researchers from the University of Rochester in New York found that those who were married were 2.5 times more likely to be alive following bypass surgery than those who were not married. This held true even after researchers adjusted for such variables as age, sex, education, tobacco use, diabetes and depression. Those who were happily married were 3.2 times more apt to be alive compared with those whose marriages were not so joyful.

Broken down by gender, men who were very content in their marriages were 2.7 times more likely and women 3.9 times more likely to be alive than those less satisfied, after adjusting for age. The authors noted that although for women the difference was not statistically significant, the effect size was actually greater among women compared with men.

The reason for the extra years of life? Marriage may provide support during the post-surgery period and beyond, as partners encourage each other to lead more healthful lifestyles, getting more physical activity, eating a better diet and quitting bad habits such as smoking.

"There is something in a good relationship that helps people stay on track," say lead author Kathleen King in a news release.

Although other studies have shown that in general men may get more health benefits out of marriage than women, women in this study came out ahead if they were in happy relationships. "Wives need to feel satisfied in their relationships to reap a health dividend," said coauthor Harry Reis in the release. "But the payoff for marital bliss is even greater for women than for men. ... A good marriage gets under your skin whether you are male or female."

The study was published online Monday in the journal Health Psychology.

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